Jury Awards $11 Million in Asbestos Wrongful Death Lawsuit

asbestos wrongful death

Emily and Gordon Bankhead

An Alameda County, California jury returned an $11 million verdict in an asbestos wrongful death suit (Emily Bankhead, Tammy Bankhead, and Debbie Bankhead Meiers v. ArvinMeritor, Inc., et al., Alameda County Superior Court Case No. RG12632899) against Pneumo Abex LLC on January 15, 2014. Kazan Law partner David McClain represented Emily Bankhead, Tammy Bankhead, and Debbie Bankhead-Meiers, the widow and adult daughters, respectively, of Gordon Bankhead. A prior jury had found that Pneumo Abex’s asbestos-containing brakes were defective, and that Pneumo Abex negligently, intentionally, and maliciously caused Mr. Bankhead’s mesothelioma, who died from the disease at age 68.

Mr. Bankhead’s tragic death gave rise to a new case to compensate his family for their loss of his companionship for all the years by which his life was cut short. This wrongful death lawsuit was filed by Kazan Law on the Bankhead’s behalf. In this second trial, which commenced January 13, 2014, Pneumo Abex was not allowed to dispute its responsibility for Mr. Bankhead’s death. The jury was not told the reasons for Pneumo Abex’s liability, nor were they told about the circumstances of Mr. Bankhead’s death. The jury was tasked with deciding the full amount of Mr. Bankhead’s widow’s and daughters’ losses due to his wrongful death 17 years before his life expectancy.

The jury valued Emily Bankhead’s losses at $6 million, and Tammy Bankhead’s and Debbie Bankhead-Meiers’s losses at $2,500,000 each. “This verdict shows that wrongful death cases are extremely valuable and undervalued by insurers and defendants,” stated Mr. McClain. “The jury returned a reasonable and fair decision that shows how jurors value the loss and love of a parent and family.”

According to Mr. McClain, “No amount of money can make up for Mr. Bankhead’s death, but we at Kazan Law and the family take comfort from the jury’s swift and just verdict.”

Gordon Bankhead worked from 1965 to 1999 in the service and repair of heavy duty vehicles as a Parts Man. He regularly handled asbestos-containing brakes, and was present for the inspection, replacement, grinding, and blowing out of asbestos-containing brakes. All of these activities caused him to breathe deadly asbestos dust. Pneumo Abex manufactured many of the brake linings Mr. Bankhead was exposed to.

Mr. and Mrs. Bankhead were represented in their first trial by Kazan Law partners Joseph Satterley and Justin Bosl, and former partner Leigh Kirmsse. The jury awarded Mr. Bankhead $1,470,000 for his past and future economic loss, and $1,500,000 for his pain and suffering. The jury also awarded his wife, Emily Bankhead $1,000,000 for her loss of her husband’s support and companionship. The jury found that defendants’ actions were malicious, fraudulent, and/or oppressive and awarded $9,000,000 in punitive damages against Pneumo Abex. Pneumo Abex appealed the verdict, which was subsequently upheld.

Kazan Law Client Publishes New Book on Daily Life With Mesothelioma

The Randy Brady StoryEvery one of our mesothelioma clients is unforgettable to us at Kazan Law. Each client is unique with their own story to tell.  Even after many years of experience in asbestos litigation, we remember and cherish each of the lives that briefly touched ours before being cruelly extinguished by mesothelioma or other asbestos-related disease.  We also get to know their families as we help them through this sad and difficult time and always appreciate it when they stay in touch with us.

I was especially pleased when Kazan Law client Debbie Clemmons, the wife of mesothelioma victim Randy Brady Clemmons, approached me this past summer about writing a chapter for her new book about her family’s experience with mesothelioma.  Now I am proud to announce that her book has been published. “In His Grace, Grappling with Mesothelioma: The Randy Brady Story” is now out in paperback. It is available on Amazon where it also can be downloaded in a Kindle edition. And she kindly credits me as a co-author.

My first introduction to the Clemmons family came in 1982, when I helped Randy’s mother Juanita Clemmons win a settlement for the asbestos-caused death of Randy’s father Johney Clemmons in 1981. Randy’s father unknowingly worked with asbestos for 30 years in an Emeryville insulation factory. This exposure took his life as well as Randy’s who developed malignant mesothelioma from inhaling the fibers brought home on his father’s work clothes.  So I feel I have walked this journey with this brave family and was glad to participate in helping Debbie write this book.

At 264 pages, Debbie’s book covers the progression of Randy’s mesothelioma from the beginning of his treatment in 2007 to his death at age 54 in 2009.

“On the pages of this book is our story of how we grappled with mesothelioma. I have a day by day; play by play experience of what we went through. There is also a lot of information on pain management,” Debbie explains in her book jacket text.

The Clemmons family members are deeply religious Christians – Randy was the morning host on KFAX, a San Francisco-based Christian radio station.  He also hosted the Christian Fellowship days with the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland A’s.   Debbie’s book also recounts how her family’s faith and spiritual beliefs helped them through this experience with grace and strength.

But it is also about how they were uplifted by the caring shown to them by other people. “When the terminal diagnosis was given to us, we were showered by the goodness of the people in the community.  Over two hundred people came to our rescue by acts of kindness, meals, financial help and prayer. True acts of love and grace,” she states.

As for my part, Debbie asked me to write the chapter in her book called “How to Choose an Asbestos Attorney.”  In it, I explain why choosing an asbestos attorney is the most important financial decision you will ever make, why you should not limit your choice of attorney to those with offices nearby and how to spot a fake asbestos attorney website. I hope you will take the opportunity to read it.

Asbestos Lawsuit Evidence that Won a $27.3 Million Verdict

Last month I announced the $27.3 million asbestos lawsuit verdict Kazan, McClain, Satterley & Greenwood obtained against Owens-Illinois, a former manufacturer of KAYLO asbestos containing thermal pipe insulation. Our client, Rose-Marie Grigg was diagnosed with mesothelioma in the fall of 2011. Her disease was caused from exposure to deadly asbestos fibers she inhaled while handling and washing the clothes of her husband, an insulator for a company that used KAYLO products.

In this video, Joe Satterley, Kazan Law partner and lead attorney in the asbestos lawsuit trial, discusses some of the evidence that was presented to the jury. Animations illustrate how Mrs. Grigg’s husband’s clothes were contaminated and how Mrs. Grigg came to develop her fatal disease. Evidence also proves that Owens-Illinois knew that their KAYLO product was dangerous, yet continued mass volume production with packaging and marketing that claimed it was non-toxic.

All of us at Kazan Law were very excited that the jury’s decision in this asbestos lawsuit gave the Griggs justice at last, and in the process also did justice to Owens-Illinois by imposing an $11 million penalty to punish Owens-Illinois and make an example of them to help educate all of Corporate America about the need to protect consumers. While money cannot replace the wonderful married life that has been permanently injured, the asbestos lawsuit verdict is an important win towards holding corporations accountable for their past horrible decisions.

Lifelong Pilot and Asbestos Cancer Victim Gives Justice Back to the Community

When families come to us at Kazan Law, they are facing one of the most challenging times in their lives and we are always greatly honored to get to know and help them. It is extremely gratifying when we see them take the justice we’ve obtained on their behalf and give back to the community in ways that help other cancer victims.

In this video, Kazan Law partner Justin Bosl shares the story of our client, Timothy Vest, who was diagnosed with mesothelioma at the young age of 44. A pilot at heart, Mr. Vest had been hanging around hangars and airplanes long before he earned his pilot license at age 16 and went on to become a commercial airline pilot. Unfortunately, there was asbestos in the airplane parts and airplane hangar that he played in as a child and the exposure over the years increased his risk of developing cancer.

We were able to successfully resolve his case, which saved Mr. Vest and his family from the emotional toll of a trial. Thankfully, Mr. Vest was diagnosed at a very early stage and was able to be treated with surgery.  The tumor has been removed and the cancer has not recurred.

Mr. Vest has made a personal commitment to fight back by taking action to help others in need by forming the Timmy Challenge Foundation, whose mission is providing financial and emotional support to families affected by tragedy.

Motivational Leader Loses Dreams to Mesothelioma

When leadership trainer James Hellam learned from his doctor that the mesothelioma diagnosis he was given in 2011 was a result of exposure to asbestos dust, he called on Kazan Law to bring justice to those who caused his deadly disease. A San Jose, California police officer for 13 years prior to becoming a global motivational speaker, Mr. Hellam’s exposure to asbestos occurred over five summers when he began working for his grandfather’s one man operation, Monterey Boiler Service, at the age of 15.

Before his diagnosis, Mr. Hellam was an extremely active and healthy 65 year old Hall of Fame softball player with a very active professional and personal life. He had planned to continue his leadership training for another decade, and to share his active leisure time with his grown sons, step daughters and the grandchildren he hoped to coach on the baseball field. Those plans, unfortunately, were all taken away from him when he became ill and was put on a journey in which he would endure one of the most difficult surgeries a human being could undergo.

Neither Mr. Hellam nor his grandfather were warned that the products purchased from Crane Co’s “Crane Supply” wholesale outlet in Salinas, California for the process of refurbishing boilers contained asbestos and were a health hazard. Yet our firm presented evidence showing that Crane Co corporate officers knew or should have known as early as the 1930s that asbestos causes diseases that kill.

Unfortunately, this story is just one of many that our firm has been involved with for coming up on 40 years. It’s why we continue to fight hard for justice for our clients and for those who will receive a mesothelioma diagnosis in the future.

Auto Industry Asbestos Victims Make Major Contributions to Find Cure for Mesothelioma

At age 66, Gordon Bankhead had 34 years of experience in the service and repair of heavy duty vehicles as a Parts Man, with most of his career spent at Sea-Land Shipping Company in Oakland, California. He regularly handled asbestos-containing brakes, and was present for the inspection, replacement, grinding, and blowing out of asbestos-containing brakes. All of these activities caused him to breathe deadly asbestos dust. In January 2010, Gordon Bankhead was diagnosed with mesothelioma.

Kazan Law filed suit on behalf of Gordon and Emily Bankhead in March 2010. Trial began on October 25, 2010 and ultimately resulted in a $17.470,000 verdict for Mr. and Mrs. Bankhead. This video tells the story of the important decisions the Bankheads made to help others who suffer from mesothelioma. With contributions like the Bankheads and others, hopefully one day a cure can be found for the deadly disease.

Asbestos Victim Shares His Mesothelioma Lawsuit Experience

Dr. Ron Gersten I have told hundreds of asbestos victims about the process of a mesothelioma lawsuit, yet nothing can prepare a client for the experience like the following excerpt. Thanks to Kazan Law client, Dr. Ron Gersten, for sharing his story in his book, Where the Mountain Takes Me, which he wrote with Gerry Mandel after his mesothelioma diagnosis in June of 2008.

The Courtyard by Marriott became the scene for a critical confrontation between the plaintiff Dr. Ron Gersten and a long list of defendants. The attorneys at Kazan Law sensed they had a strong case. They tried to cover every base, even bases that Ron was unaware of–his entire history, his grades in college, his affiliations and friends. Anything that might pertain to his condition, as remote as it might be, was examined inside and out.

Kazan’s team of investigators probed into every aspect of his case, from the companies responsible for the products and their lack of safety at the site, to the use of the asbestos in the products themselves. Thousands of pages of information were reviewed and potential witnesses contacted. The resources of this experienced law firm had been cranked into overdrive to move into the deposition quickly and effectively.

This phase of the hearings promised to put tremendous pressure on Ron. His sense of detail, his memory of events long past, his specific job functions, who, where and what the projects were, what kind of materials were used and who specified them—Kazan was a tremendous help.

Ron entered the room at the Marriott where fourteen attorneys were prepared to begin the deposition. Kazan Law partner Gordon Greenwood helped Ron to a chair. The process began after opening formalities. Ron’s lead attorney was a beautiful blonde woman with a perky attitude. More important, she was one hell of a lawyer. Her name was Andrea Huston and she ran the meeting with an iron fist.

The deposition lasted four days. Ron was in pain much of the time, and coughed frequently, a persistent attempt to clear his air passages. When he appeared to be tiring, Andrea halted the proceedings with a no-nonsense “Dr. Gersten is not in shape to continue. We will take a break.”

At the end of the four days, Ron went home and waited. He kept his cell phone near him throughout the day and night. They had sued fourteen entities. Gordon called occasionally to reassure him. Andrea kept him informed of where things stood. Ron’s wife, Martha, waited as breathlessly as Ron.

Andrea called one day not long after. “Good news, Ron. We’ve just settled one of the cases.” She told Ron a number and he almost dropped the phone. He had never seen that number before, not with a dollar sign attached to it anyway. Little by little, thirteen out of fourteen settled.

The size of the final awards ensured that all medical costs and living expenses for Ron and Martha would be taken care of.

A Memorial Tribute to Mesothelioma Victim Eric Weston

Eric Weston

Eric Weston

What follows are excerpts from Eric Weston: Life, Art, and Passions, a memorial tribute to our client who lost his life to mesothelioma at the young age of 56. This final chapter was written by Betsy Sanders, a very close and longtime friend to Eric.

In July of 2008, Eric noticed he was becoming short of breath. He felt some pressure on his lungs and felt like there was fluid in his lungs. It took him until early August before he saw his doctor. At that time he had fluid removed from his chest cavity and felt great afterward.

Eric’s doctor, Dr. Andrew Ross, wanted him to see a specialist to find out what was causing the accumulation of fluid; so, he went into Alta Bates in early September for a biopsy. The next day, Steph Zlott was with Eric when his doctor came in to talk with him about what they had discovered. She said, “Well I wish I had good news for you but I don’t. You have mesothelioma.”

His doctor went on to say, “On the outside, if you don’t do anything, we’ll give you a year to a year and a half. You might have as much as five years if you decide to have treatment.”

Gwen went with Eric to see the UCSF oncologists who are known for their aggressive treatment of mesothelioma. He wanted a second opinion before he made any decisions. The diagnosis and treatment options were the same. Soon after the second diagnosis, Eric made the decision not to go through treatments or surgery for his mesothelioma. He did not want to be a “patient” for the rest of his life.

Eric had his ups and downs, but he seldom broke down. He did have some days of depression, but generally lived well in the time he had left.

Eric eventually decided to consult an attorney to determine if he had a viable lawsuit. Eric’s brother, Scott, had a friend who worked for the law firm of Kazan, McClain, Lyons, Greenwood & Harley and they agreed to take the case. They are considered the best law firm for any case relative to mesothelioma. Eric was very impressed with them.

Denise Abrams was one of the senior attorneys at Kazan, McClain, Lyons, Greenwood & Harley. When she met with Eric, she immediately felt a connection and came out of partial retirement to be the lead attorney for the lawsuit. Nearly twenty people from Kazan, McClain, Lyons, Greenwood & Harley worked on Eric’s lawsuit.

I Love You Still

I Love You Still

When Denise and a few others went to Eric’s home, they were amazed at what he had created in his home with his art. Seeing him in his own environment brought things even closer. Eric was so impressed with Denise that he left her a piece of art she had admired, a piece entitled “I Love You Still”.

It took about eight months before a few of the companies decided to settle. Once they settled, more followed suit, so Eric didn’t have to go to trial.

I was very fortunate to have met many of the people from Kazan, McClain, Lyons, Greenwood & Harley who helped Eric through this difficult lawsuit, which ultimately brought him the financial security to live out his final eight months. He bought himself a 2008 911 Porsche and I know he enjoyed the times he was able to drive around the Bay Area and to the beaches of Sonoma County.

February 27, 2010 was a sad day for all Eric’s friends and family. It was also a day of peace because we knew he had been released from the pain.

Look Homeward Anvil

Look Homeward Anvil

Denise Abrams recently wrote the following about this book. “Thanks for this lovely tribute to Eric. It was such an honor to represent him and his case will have a lasting impact for other workers with similar exposures. Eric was a true trailblazer and a quiet giant. We all miss him.”

Mesothelioma Lawsuit Resolved for DIY Home Improvement Asbestos Exposure Victim

Rick Fenstermaker and his son Ross at a 2010 World Series game In 2011 the Fenstermaker family of Alameda, California received some news that changed their world. Husband and father Rick Fenstermaker was diagnosed with mesothelioma, an incurable cancer caused by breathing invisible, odorless asbestos dust.

Rick Fenstermaker earned his success through hard work and hands-on education. In the 1970s he bought fixer-uppers. He worked on the houses himself: he patched and repaired walls, installed new windows, fixed roofs, and made the homes desirable to tenants. Rick took care of all the property management and maintenance for the homes he rented to his tenants.

Rick and his wife Eve used this entrepreneurial experience to build a thriving realty and brokerage business. Rick and Eve were close supportive partners in both business and home. They raised three children together and enjoyed the successes their perseverance brought.

What they didn’t know is that some of the products Rick used in the 1970s contained asbestos.

Kazan Law’s investigation revealed that the asbestos products Rick used had the same brand of asbestos, called “Calidria.” Calidria was mined, milled, and marketed by the Union Carbide Corporation, a subsidiary of Dow Chemical Company.

Trial commenced on January 23, 2012. Firm principal Dianna Lyons and associate William Ruiz served as lead trial counsel with law and motion support from associate Michael Stewart. The case resolved to the parties’ mutual satisfaction after “mini-opening statements” and plaintiffs’ counsel’s first round of jury voir dire.

Rick fought through extensive surgery and chemotherapy with Eve always by his side. Sadly, Rick finally succumbed to his illness and passed away on April 9, 2012, at his home and surrounded by his family.

A Pilot’s Plight from Aircraft to Asbestos Exposure

Timothy_Vest A highly skilled airline pilot for a major carrier, Timothy Vest received a terrifying shock in September 2009 when he was diagnosed with mesothelioma at the young age of 44. He and his wife Caroline have three young children together.

Mr. Vest’s love of flying began early, as did his exposure to asbestos. His father was a senior pilot and later an executive for World Airways. Young Tim often went with his father to the World Airways hanger at the Oakland Airport on the weekends so he could see the planes being repaired. The hangar, first opened in 1973, was one of the largest in the country at the time. Tim visited the hangar twice during its construction and was exposed to the asbestos-containing fireproofing being sprayed. During subsequent trips to the hangar after it opened, Mr. Vest breathed asbestos dust from the fireproofing in the hangar, from asbestos parts and expoxy on the planes, and from the asbestos drywall products used in the office spaces. Neither Vest knew they were being exposed to this invisible toxin.

Tim Vest got his pilot’s license when he turned 16. He flew for Emery Worldwide throughout the 1990s, during which he was awarded the Civilian Air Medal by President George H.W. Bush for his work supporting Operation Desert Storm. Tim also flew relief missions to Chernobyl and Darfur. In 2001, Tim began flying for JetBlue.

Three months after his mesothelioma diagnosis, Kazan Law filed suit on behalf of Mr. and Mrs. Vest against the manufacturers of the asbestos products he was exposed to, as well as the property owner, tenant, and contractors at the hangar. [Timothy and Caroline Vest v. Allied Packing & Supply, Inc., et al. (2012) Alameda County Superior Court Case No. RG09489518]

Kazan Law was able to defeat the defendants’ two attempts to remove the case to Federal Court in Philadelphia. The trial began on February 27, 2012 against Dowman Products, Inc., which manufactured the joint compound used to build and remodel the office spaces at the hangar. The case resolved the following week during jury selection.

The good news for Mr. Vest is that his mesothelioma was caught very early. After surgery and chemotherapy, his prognosis is much better than most patients. He is spending as much time as possible with his family and staying as healthy as he can.

Jack London Market, 55 Harrison Street, Suite 400, Oakland, CA 94607 | Toll Free: 1.877-995-6372 | Tel: 877-995-6372 | Fax: 510.835.4913
Serving Oakland, San Francisco, Los Angeles and all of California.