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Kazan Law Partner Frank Fernandez Honored By La Raza Centro Legal

Frank FernandezKazan Law is proud to announce that our partner and colleague Francis “Frank” E. Fernandez has been honored by San Francisco La Raza Centro Legal, a group he helped found in 1973 while he was still in law school. La Raza Centro Legal is a community-based legal organization dedicated to empowering Latino, immigrant and low-income communities of San Francisco to advocate for their civil and human rights, combining legal services, organizing, advocacy, and social services to build grassroots power and alliances towards creating a movement for a just society.

The nonprofit organization’s new Frank Fernandez Endowment was announced at their 41st Anniversary Gala, an event co-sponsored by the Kazan Law Foundation. “The Frank Fernandez Endowment will allow us to hire an immigration attorney fellow in the coming year. Such is only possible because of the many donors who believe in our work and more importantly believe in honoring our founder Frank Fernandez,” said Carlos Osorio, La Raza’s Senior Law Program Coordinator. “We are truly honored that the Frank Fernandez Immigration Attorney Fellow will be possible.

Back in the old days, Frank was a labor lawyer working with the United Farm Workers of America, the group started by Cesar Chavez in the 1960s to support and empower Latino agricultural field workers. Frank’s experience working with the UFW and the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board, the AFL-CIO, and the California Department of Occupational Health & Safety (Cal-OSHA), showed me he was a lawyer who like me also was passionate about protecting the rights of workers to work in safe healthy work environments., someone who not only would fight for justice for workers when their rights were violated but who also was skilled enough to win.

I knew Frank was a great fit for the kind of firm that we were trying to build. And I was right.  I did not realize then that by 2014, Latinos for would become California’s largest ethnic group, making up 39% of the state’s population, but that only 4.2% of the state’s lawyers would be Latino, as the California State Bar reported in a recent diversity study.  Diversity has always been one of the firm’s goals. We believe that our staff should reflect the people we serve.

I am proud of all that Frank has accomplished on behalf of victims of asbestos exposure through his work at Kazan Law. I am equally proud of his pioneering work on behalf of the Latino community in his founding and ongoing work with La Raza Centro Legal and of the support he has received from Kazan Law’s foundation for this vital organization.

Kazan Law Wins Precedent-Setting California Supreme Court Victory in Ford Asbestos Case

ford asbestosAs reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, the California Supreme Court has rejected Ford Motor Company’s petition for review of a published appellate decision in favor of Kazan Law clients Patrick and Sharon Scott (Scott v. Ford Motor Company (2014) 224 Cal.App.4th 1492).  Mr. Scott’s mesothelioma cancer was caused by prolonged asbestos exposure from automotive brakes.

Ford desired a “nationwide shield” from punitive damages liability for all asbestos exposure, merely because Ford’s executive offices are in Michigan and that state’s law does not allow punitive damages.  But the correct rule is that when a company exposes people to the risks associated with asbestos — or any other toxic substance or dangerous product — in California, a California jury has the right to apply punitive damages law to the case.

According to the media article about this new favorable development in the Scott case, it is “also a precedent for future cases.”

This will not be the first time that Kazan Law has set legal precedents in the area of asbestos law. But what matters to us most here is the justice that we are helping to achieve not only for the Scotts but for every one of us.

Otherwise big companies with out-of-state headquarters would get a free pass to sell defective products in California and every other state without fear of punishment. That would be a nightmare not just for mesothelioma victims but for everyone injured by driving a car with defective parts, using appliances that malfunctioned or products containing harmful substances, when the manufacturer ignored the health and safety of its customers

A jury awarded Patrick Scott $1.5 million in damages and legal costs against Ford in November 2012 after the trial team, led by Kazan Law partners Justin Bosl and Joseph Satterley, presented clear evidence that Ford had known of the asbestos exposure risks in their products before Mr. Scott did, and failed to warn him. The former Bay Area service station owner had sought damages from Ford for exposing him to brake-lining asbestos.

In March, a California appellate court upheld the $1.5 million judgment for the Scotts. Kazan Law of counsel Ted Pelletier led our appellate team in that phase.

Kazan Law associate Michael Stewart, who headed this current round of the Scott asbestos case, aptly summed up the California Supreme Court victory by saying, “The Scott decision will help to protect all types of consumers in California because the availability of punitive damages will encourage all manufacturers to design safer products and share hazard information.  It should not matter whether a manufacturer is from California or some other state or country.”

Kazan Law Attorney Frances Schreiberg Honored with Annual Award

Frances SchreibergA passionate Kazan Law attorney just received a special honor from a workers safety group and all of us at Kazan Law feel honored and proud. Frances Schreiberg, a longtime Kazan Law Of Counsel attorney who works on pro bono cases for us, has just had a new annual award launched in her honor. It is aptly called the Frances Schreiberg Pro Bono Award.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines moral compass as “a naturalfeeling that makes peopleknow what is right and wrong and how they should behave.” In the workday world, where workers continue to be put at risk for death, disease and injury whether due to asbestos exposure, faulty machinery, chemical fumes or myriad other causes, Fran serves as a moral compass for the community. She gives a voice to those who are too fearful to speak up and she empowers the unempowered.

Before I convinced her to work for Kazan Law in 1991, Fran worked for:

  • the Agricultural Labor Relations Board, training administrative law judges, attorneys and investigators
  • the State of California, Department of Industrial Relations, and among other tasks, managed the criminal Bureau of Investigations at Cal/OSHA where she prosecuted companies when workers were killed or maimed as a result of unsafe or unhealthful conditions on the job.
  • the State Building & Construction Trades Council of California, developed an occupational safety and health program for them, and was involved with a variety of construction trade union issues

Since 1984 she has been an active member of numerous Cal/OSHA regulatory advisory committees, including ones for asbestos, lead and other workplace safety hazards. In 1987, Fran and I were part of a concerned group trying to restore Cal/OSHA when powerful business interests temporarily succeeded in dissolving it. That group was the nucleus of WorkSafe and Fran has been involved with WorkSafe ever since.

WorkSafe, headquartered in Oakland, California, remains dedicated to eliminating workplace hazards. It is fitting that the group has created an annual Frances Schreiberg Pro Bono Award to be presented at their annual anniversary celebration. This year’s inaugural recipient at WorkSafe’s 31st anniversary celebration was Julius Young, a partner at the Oakland firm Boxer & Gerson.

Sophie Noero, Worksafe’s program administrator commented afterwards, “It was a wonderful event, and I am so thrilled that we were able to acknowledge and celebrate Fran’s and the firm’s invaluable support of Worksafe in front of so many members of our community.”

We are too.

Seven of Kazan Law’s Asbestos Lawyers Named to Super Lawyers 2014

 asbestos lawyers

Top left: Steven Kazan, David McClain, Joseph Satterley, Gordon Greenwood. Bottom left: Justin Bosl, Michael Stewart, William Ruiz

I am proud to announce that Super Lawyers, a national attorney rating service, has selected seven Kazan Law asbestos lawyers for their 2014 list:

Gordon Greenwood: Super Lawyer 2004, 2006-2014

Steven Kazan: Super Lawyer 2004-2014

David McClain: Super Lawyer 2004-2014

Joseph Satterley: Super Lawyer 2013 (Kentucky) – 2014 (California)

Super Lawyers recognizes the top up-and-coming attorneys in their Rising Stars list. The selection process for Rising Stars is the same as the Super Lawyers selection process, except to be eligible for inclusion in Rising Stars, a candidate must be either 40 years old or younger or in practice for 10 years or less. No more than 2.5 percent of the lawyers in the state are named to this list. We are very proud of the three Kazan Law attorneys named Rising Stars this year:

Justin Bosl: Rising Star 2011-2014

William Ruiz: Rising Star 2012-2014

Michael Stewart: Rising Star 2013-2014

Super Lawyers annually selects outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high level of peer recognition and professional achievement. The selection process includes independent research, peer nominations and peer evaluations.

The list is published in Super Lawyers Magazine which is distributed to attorneys and accredited law school libraries. The magazine is published in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., reaching more than 13 million readers. Super Lawyers also publishes the list as a supplemental special section in many city and regional magazines across the country.

Although this is not the first time we have received this prestigious recognition from our peers, each time I feel it is a privilege and an honor. This year is no exception.

When I first started my career as a personal injury lawyer, asbestos law as we know it today did not exist. There were plenty of personal injury lawyers but no asbestos lawyers. After taking on and winning one of the first asbestos cases ever in the U.S., I was gratified to realize that I had helped achieve justice for people who previously had none – victims of asbestos exposure. I knew I had found my calling.

I hung out my shingle for Kazan Law in Oakland California in 1974 and was soon joined by David McClain. Today Kazan Law is still headquartered in Oakland. Kazan, McClain, Satterley  & Greenwood now has 22 attorneys, including me.  As Kazan Law celebrates its 40th anniversary, the firm continues to excel at pursuing justice for mesothelioma victims and others exposed to asbestos.  Kazan Law daily puts its 40 years of experience in pioneering asbestos lawsuits and setting precedents to work for its clients today with the same zeal for justice as when we first started.

While we are pleased at the many accolades we have received, including this latest one from Super Lawyers, our greatest satisfaction as asbestos attorneys continues to come from helping our clients and their families receive due compensation for their suffering.

Workers Rights Summer Brown Bag Series

workers rightsOur mission at Kazan Law to defend those harmed by workplace asbestos exposure keeps us focused on worker safety and workers’ rights.  Manufacturing may have declined in the United States in recent years but blue collar work – whether in agriculture, automotive or service industries – has not. A 2012 survey finds that in California blue collar workers outnumbered white collar workers 61% to 39%.  For that same year, Worksafe, a California nonprofit that Kazan Law has supported for many years, reported that 451,500 of those blue collar workers were injured or made ill at their jobs. An additional 339 were killed.

Therefore we feel that it is important to educate our summer asbestos law clerks as well as new employees of the firm who have recently graduated not just about the law and our practice, but also about our deep commitment to justice for all and defending workers’ rights to safety and health on the job as well as other important workers’ rights.  One of the ways we do this is with a weekly brown bag lunch series throughout the summer. The summer law clerks and any staff who choose to attend bring their lunch at noon to our conference room. There we provide cookies and beverages along with short documentary films and/or in-person talks from administrative law judges, attorneys, union representatives, and others involved in advocating for workers, including attorneys on our staff.

This inspiring series is coordinated by Fran Schreiberg, Of Counsel staff attorney who has made a career safeguarding workers rights on a state and federal level.

Topics include:

Meet Arthur Bryant and Sarah Belton of Public Justice Bryant, President of Public Justice and the Public Justice Foundation, has won major victories and established new precedents in several areas of the law, including constitutional law, toxic torts, civil rights, consumer protection, and mass torts.  The National Law Journal named him one of the 100 Most Influential Attorneys in America. Sarah Beltonjoined the Public Justice Oakland office in June 2013 as the first Cartwright-Baron Attorney. She was previously an Equal Justice Works fellow and a staff attorney at Legal Services for Children in San Francisco, California.

Report Back from Dhaka, Bangladesh Protecting Bangladesh Garment Workers from Factory Fires and Building Collapses with Garrett Brown, MPH, CIH. Brown worked for Cal/OSHA for 20 years as a compliance officer and Headquarters staff, and is now full-time volunteer Coordinator of the Maquiladora Health & Safety Support Network.

Making a Killing: Philip Morris, Kraft and Global Tobacco Addiction with discussion by Ted Pelletier This half-hour film shows how the tobacco giant uses its political power, size and marketing skill to spread tobacco addiction internationally, leaving in its wake a trail of death and disease. Pelletier, Of Counsel to the firm, earlier in his career handled the first two appeals v. Philip Morris and RJ Reynolds in California, and will share some litigation-specific stories of those cases and how they played a part in cracking Tobacco’s long-asserted lack of liability.

Those Who Know Don’t Tell A powerful documentary about the history of the struggle to rid the workplace of occupational hazards, including asbestos.

Kazan Law Foundation Honored by Lend a Hand Foundation

Kazan Law FoundationThe success of our asbestos law firm compels us to reach out and try to help meet the needs of the vibrant diverse community around us. The Kazan Law Foundation was formed in 1994, and over the years has disbursed over $20 million in grants to a wide array of community and civic organizations, including $6 million for mesothelioma research.

Recently our Foundation was recognized by Oakland’s Lend a Hand Foundation for our contribution to their efforts. At their annual ceremony, the Green and White Ball, featuring legendary percussionist Pete Escovedo , we were honored to receive a certificate of special Congressional recognition from Congresswoman Barbara Lee as well as certificates of commendation from the California State Assembly and the Alameda County Board of Supervisors for our donations to the Lend a Hand Foundation.

But we chose to donate to the Lend a Hand Foundation not to receive recognition but because we support their mission. And that mission is To enhance the quality of life of less fortunate youth with a special focus on kids residing in transitional housing facilities and others at a disadvantage. Lend a Hand tries to give these kids the opportunity to experience educational, cultural and other activities not otherwise available to them.

In Alameda County, according to the Lend a Hand Foundation there are over 6,000 students identified as homeless. This includes students living in shelters, transitional housing, hotels/motels, or living doubled up with other friends or families because they lost their housing. The Lend a Hand Foundation’s efforts to help these kids includes a Stay in School Program, Annual Back to School Giveaway providing school supplies to more than 10,000 kids and scholarship funds for graduating high school seniors.

Meet Kazan Law’s 2014 Summer Asbestos Law Clerks

2014 asbestos law clerks

Clockwise from top left–Christina Bazak, Anthony Caruthers II, Yuki Cruse, Luis Landeros, Denise Smith, Tenette Smith

Here at Kazan Law our historic focus on asbestos law sets us apart from many other law firms. But as a law firm, we also share certain basic characteristics with other law firms across the country. One is that we proudly sponsor a robust summer law clerk program.

The Kazan, McClain, Satterley & Greenwood Summer Law Clerk Program offers law students the opportunity to gain experience in a plaintiff’s asbestos law practice.  Our summer clerks are fully integrated into the work and life of the firm, with the goal of giving them a realistic view of the rewards and demands of a plaintiff’s practice. Summer law clerks are afforded the opportunity to work with many of our attorneys in a collegial atmosphere, as we prepare and try mesothelioma cases.  Upon graduation from law school, former summer law clerks are given consideration in our hiring process; many current Kazan law attorneys began their careers with the firm as summer law clerks. The list includes:

As summer law clerks here, law students get the invaluable chance to learn by doing. Instead of listening to law professors, taking notes and reading text books, these young people get to do real world law firm tasks such as:

  • Helping draft parts of motions
  • Attending court hearings
  • Assisting in trial preparation
  • Writing legal memorandum
  • Fact checking legal documents

In keeping with the needs of our community and the population we serve, our summer clerks reflect the diverse spectrum of America today. We consider it a duty and a privilege to help educate these bright young future lawyers about truly balancing the scales of justice in the plight of those unlawfully exposed to asbestos by greedy powerful businesses.

Meet our 2014 summer asbestos law clerks:

Christina Bazak is a third year law student at Loyola Marymount University Law School in Los Angeles. She has previous experience working for a judge and a U.S. Senator.

Anthony Caruthers II is a third year law student at the University Of San Francisco School Of Law who takes time from his studies to mentor, coach and tutor at risk youth.

Yuki Cruse is a third year law student at the University Of San Francisco School Of Law who has experience in drafting memoranda for a judge. She is proficient in Japanese.

Luis Landeros is a third year law student at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law. He earned his undergraduate degree at Stanford University and is active in outreach efforts to help Latino students.

Denise Smith returns to Kazan Law for a second summer. She is a third year law student at the University of California, Hastings College of Law and volunteers in youth outreach and environmental efforts.

Tenette Smith is a third year law student at the University of San Francisco School of Law. A 2013 Broussard Scholar, she has worked for the Public Defender’s Office in Little Rock, Arkansas and the Superior Court of California, County of San Diego as a court operations clerk. She volunteers for local legal aid groups.

Asbestos Victim Wins a Landmark Case

asbestos victimAsbestos victim Robert Alan Speake was “in frail health and breathing with difficulty,” according to the December 1, 1981 article in the San Francisco Chronicle.   But he stood up for his day in court, a day that marked a major change in the tragic history of asbestos victims and the businesses and individuals who exploited their innocence for financial gain.

As ill as he was on that day, Speake stood up on behalf of not only himself but all asbestos victims. And standing with him there in Contra Costa County Superior Court on that day was me. I would go on to fight on behalf of asbestos victims for the next several decades – a fight I continue to this day. But on that day in 1981, we were breaking new legal ground.

I was helping to represent Speake in his lawsuit against the giant Johns-Manville Corp. family of companies which he blamed for his fatal illness.

Speake , 66 at the time, was an asbestos worker for 33 years at Johns-Manville’s Pittsburg plant. We maintained that the executives knew of the health hazards of working with asbestos as early as the 1930s but hid the information from their employees. Bob said they never told him anything and I believed him.

Speake, who had to take early retirement because of his declining health, was suffering from asbestosis, a disease of the lungs, caused by his work environment. Johns-Manville’s lawyers tried to blame the victim and claimed his illness was caused by smoking.

I didn’t buy that. The article quotes me as saying that Johns-Manville acted in “willful and conscious disregard” by never telling workers of the dangers.

“Bob Speake should have had the opportunity to say, I’m going to get out of here and get a safe job, before his health began to deteriorate,” I told the court.

I showed evidence revealing that the company had kept secret the results of X-rays and exams showing signs of asbestos-caused damage in Speake as early as the 1950s.

I sought not only lost pay for Speake, but also substantial punitive damages to make an example of Johns-Manville so others would be spared the fate that was Bob Speake’s.

We succeeded in making an example of Johns-Manville. Their name came to be synonymous with the scandal of asbestos exposure and callous disregard for human life. They went into bankruptcy several months later, right before our next group of cases for their plant workers was set for trial. But we did not succeed in sparing others from Bob Speake’s fate. Greed never learns its lesson. And so we continue to fight on behalf of asbestos victims.

Landmark Appellate Victory In Favor of Victims of Take Home Asbestos Exposure

take home asbestos exposureIn a landmark victory decision that may offer hope for justice to all victims of take home asbestos exposure, a California court of appeal has ruled that a case of take home asbestos exposure that had been dismissed now can be reinstated and move forward to trial.

Kazan Law is pleased to announce that the court of appeal reversed a lower court’s ruling that would have dismissed a take home asbestos case against Pneumo Abex, a manufacturer of asbestos brakes, brought by Johnny Kesner, who was exposed to asbestos dust brought home from the Abex plant by his uncle, an employee there.  (Kesner v. Pneumo Abex, LLC (May 15, 2014) First Dist., Div. 3, Nos. A136378 and A136416).

Kazan Law of-counsel attorney Ted W. Pelletier joined trial counsel from the firm Weitz & Luxenberg to successfully argue the case before the Court of Appeal.

The appeal court decision is of special significance because it is the first one to limit a previous court decision that prevented the owner of a piece of property from being held liable for harmful take home asbestos exposures that resulted from the work done on the property.

That decision, Campbell v. Ford Motor Co. (2012) 206 Cal.App.4th 15, was issued in November 2012. It determined that Ford was not responsible for asbestos exposure to family members brought home on the clothes of workers installing asbestos-containing insulation while constructing a new Ford factory on the property. The workers were employed by the contractor hired to build the factory not by Ford itself.

Since then, companies successfully argued that this decision applies to them even though they do not merely own the premises but also actually cause asbestos exposure by manufacturing asbestos products or performing the work that released the asbestos dust.  Many trial courts, lacking further guidance, have applied the Campbell decision to these cases, depriving asbestos exposure victims of the right to pursue their claims against those responsible.

Kazan Law just helped change that. We helped convince the court that Pneumo Abex, who both owned the land and used it to manufacture asbestos-containing brake products, knowingly exposed its employee George Kesner, Johnny Kesner’s uncle, to asbestos dust that he regularly brought home on his clothes.

In a significant step, the appeal court will publish this decision thus making it binding throughout the state. This published decision will provide much-needed guidance to the trial courts in cases involving a defendant who actively created the asbestos exposure hazard that caused injury and who also happened to own the premises where it happened.

American Law Month: Why Democracy Matters For Asbestos Lawsuits

American Law MonthAs a lawyer who brings asbestos lawsuits, I am keenly aware of the rights every American citizen has under the laws of the land and how they protect us. If you have been harmed by asbestos exposure, you can seek justice under the law even if powerful business interests are responsible for causing you that harm.  How is that possible? Because we live in a democracy where every vote matters.

In many countries around the world, laws do not protect workers. Factories explode, machinery lack safety features, toxic fumes poison the air. Workers die and their families have no recourse. But here in the United States, we vote. Although we may not vote directly ourselves on asbestos regulations and other environmental and occupational safety issues, we vote for men and women we know will safeguard our health and well-being in Congress. We vote for those who will defend our interests against business interests that would seek to exploit us.

“American Democracy and the Rule of Law: Why Every Vote Matters” was the theme for this year’s May 1 American Law Day initiative established by the American Bar Association.

One of the key reasons this theme was chosen for this year is because we are approaching the 50th anniversaries of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. These remain phenomenal achievements in legislation because they strengthen the right of every eligible
American to vote regardless of race, religion, ethnicity or gender.

Here in Alameda County, California where Kazan Law has practiced asbestos law since 1974, these legislative anniversaries and the ideals they represent are so highly cherished, that the County Board of Supervisors has declared that May will be celebrated as American Law Month.

I believe their spirit is reflected in this statement from the ABA:

One of our most cherished national ideals, expressed eloquently by Abraham Lincoln, is “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” It is a principle enshrined in our Nation’s founding documents, from the Declaration of Independence’s assurance that governments derive their powers from the consent of the governed, to the opening three words of the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution, “We the People.”

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