The first asbestos products lawsuit was filed on December 10, 1966, in Beaumont, Texas, by attorney Ward Stephenson on behalf of his client, Claude Tomplait, who had been diagnosed with asbestosis in July of that year. The defendants were eleven manufacturers of asbestos-containing insulation products, including Johns-Manville, Fibreboard and Owens Corning Fiberglas. The case proceeded to trial on May 12, 1969 and a week later the verdict was returned in favor of defendants.
But Stephenson was not deterred by this initial loss. In October 1969, he filed a case for one of Mr. Tomplait’s co-workers, a man named Clarence Borel. Again, he named numerous asbestos manufacturers. However, this time the result was different. The jury returned a verdict for Mr. Borel in the amount of $79,436.24. The verdict was appealed and on September 7, 1973, Ward Stephenson died. However, four days later, the Fifth Circuit Court upheld the award.
The legal battle on behalf of asbestos victims shifted to other parts of the United States. Starting in late 1973, cases were filed in many other jurisdictions.
Asbestos Litigation Landmarks
In 1974, Steven Kazan filed a precedent-setting lawsuit on behalf of Reba Rudkin, who developed asbestosis after working for 29 years at the Johns-Manville manufacturing plant in Pittsburg, California. Kazan sued Johns-Manville in a civil lawsuit, even though Mr. Rudkin worked for Johns-Manville and the company would normally be protected from such a lawsuit because workers’ compensation is the exclusive remedy for an employee suing an employer. But Mr. Kazan argued that Manville and its executives should not be shielded from fraud and conspiracy charges. [read more]
Asbestos Litigation & Bankruptcy Trusts
Unfortunately, several other asbestos companies – Eagle Picher, UNARCO, Amatex, H.K. Porter, Carey Canada, Celotex, and Raybestos Manhattan/Raymark – followed Johns-Manville’s lead into the bankruptcy courts. Within a few years, the entire asbestos textile industry was in bankruptcy, as were several major asbestos insulation manufacturers. [read more]
Asbestos Litigation & Workers’ Compensation
For individual victims of asbestos disease, workers’ compensation awards are often a lifeline. In this arena Kazan Law has been a leader in formulating law about occupational diseases in California. [read more]
Asbestos Litigation & Tobacco
Since the early years of litigation, the asbestos companies have often defended themselves by arguing that smoking is the cause of the injury. This is because of the synergistic relationship between smoking and asbestos exposure: the risk of disease for workers who smoked and were exposed to asbestos is very much higher than for workers who did not smoke. [read more]