On November 28, 2012, an Oakland, California jury returned a $5,437,882 verdict for a leadership trainer in his case against Crane Co, a manufacturer of industrial products, liable for a man’s mesothelioma. (Hellam v. Crane Co., Nos. A138013 and A139141, 2014 WL 1492725 Cal. Ct. App., 1st Dist. Apr. 16, 2014)
James Hellam was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2011. As a teenager, Mr. Hellam worked for his grandfather’s one-man shop, Monterey Boiler Service, over the course of five summers between 1962 and 1966. His grandfather bought Cranite gaskets and a dry powdered cement product from Crane Co’s “Crane Supply” wholesale outlet in Salinas, California. Mr. Hellam was exposed to asbestos when he mixed the powered material with water to form a slurry used in the process of refurbishing boilers. He was also exposed to asbestos while cutting sheet gasket material to form gaskets used in the refurbishing process.
Mr. Hellam had no asbestos exposure during the rest of his career. In his adult life, Mr.Hellam was a San Jose police officer for 13 years. He then developed a 31-year career as a life coach who traveled the globe giving leadership training lectures.
Crane Co denied responsibility for exposing Mr. Hellam to asbestos and asserted at trial that the company was unaware of asbestos related health hazards until the 1970s. Kazan Law presented evidence showing that Crane Co corporate officers knew or should have known as early as the 1930s that asbestos causes diseases that kill. The case was tried by former Kazan Law partners Dianna Lyons and Frank Fernandez, and associate Mark Swanson.
Mesothelioma Verdict Appeal
Crane Co. appealed the jury decision yet the appellate court held that evidence supported the finding that Crane’s gaskets and cement were defectively designed because they emitted and exposed Mr. Hellam to significant levels of toxic asbestos fibers during ordinary use. The court agreed that the jury rightly attributed Crane’s products being a cause of Mr. Hellam’s malignant mesothelioma.
In April 2014, the appeals court affirmed the trial court’s award of over $85,000 in litigation costs to Mr. Hellam and economic damages of $937,882.56 and non-economic damages of $4,500,000.00. The total mesothelioma verdict was $5,437,882.56
Kazan Law partner Ted Pelletier and associate Ian Rivamonte led the successful appeal.
On August 20, 2015, the California Court of Appeal, First District, opposed Crane Co’s second attempt to reduce the significant economic-damages judgment entered against it. The court rejected Crane Co.’s proposed method of applying settlement credits, which the court characterized as “completely at odds” with California law. If the appellate court had sided with Crane Co., Kazan Law client James Hellam’s $937,882.56 economic-damages judgment would have been significantly reduced, if not completely erased.
Kazan Law partner Ted Pelletier and associate Ian Rivamonte successfully handled the second appeal.