Kazan Law Partner Gordon Greenwood Speaks At Martin Luther King Event

Martin Luther King Day took on special significance for our firm this year. Kazan Law partner Gordon Greenwood was invited to his Mississippi hometown to be the keynote speaker at an event honoring Dr. King.

“As I look out over this audience today I see a lot of people who poured a lot of life into me and who are completely responsible for everything that I have ever accomplished in my life, and it is good to be invited to a lot of different places, it’s great to be invited home,” Gordon told the audience.

Annual Event Attracts Growing Crowds

Over 300 people gathered for the Meridian/Lauderdale County NAACP’s 30th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Prayer Breakfast on January 19. The annual event, which started with just a few members of the Boys and Girls club in Meridian, had to be moved from Meridian’s City Hall to a larger venue. Gordon Greenwood, who has been with our firm for 15 years, is a Meridian native and graduate of Meridian High School.

Also present was Meridian resident Angie Lewis who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom Award from President Obama on behalf of her father James Chaney. Chaney, along with Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, were Mississippi Civil Rights workers who were murdered in 1964. Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee in 1968.

Gordon Greenwood Encourages Self-Motivation

Gordon Greenwood, in his keynote address “Looking Back to Move Forward”, called on the community to follow Dr. King’s example of being self-motivated in achieving their goals.

“Somehow, we got this idea that the answer lies outside of us. We protest to the school board. Then we go to the supervisor: he must not be doing his job. Then we complain about the mayor, he must not be doing his job. We even complain about the president, Barack Obama ain’t doing his job. We look everywhere but at the man in the mirror,” he told the crowd.

“The babies born today at Rush and Anderson today are born with the same cry as the babies who were born at Matty Hersee,” Greenwood, a 1980 graduate of Meridian High School, told the crowd referring to past and current local hospitals. “It is a cry for motivation. It is a cry for direction, and if we do not answer it, the streets will.”

The breakfast concluded after a reading of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and a prayer by NAACP President Randle Jennings.

“We were truly blessed by the speech given to the community by Gordon Greenwood,” Jennings said. “More than anything, I hope we can build a bridge from this. We were challenged by Mr. Greenwood to build and strengthen our community.”

San Francisco Deputy Public Defender Joins Kazan Law

Stephanie Wargo-WilsonKazan Law is proud to announce that Stephanie Wargo-Wilson has become our newest associate. As mesothelioma lawyers, we practice in a very specialized area of the law, representing the victims of asbestos exposure and their families. We fight for justice for people who do not have much in the way of money or power. That makes Stephanie a great fit for Kazan Law. She comes to us from the San Francisco Public Defender’s office where she has served as a Deputy Public Defender since 2002.

As San Francisco Deputy Public Defender, Stephanie helped defend thousands of people who could not otherwise afford an attorney. In asbestos litigation, we advocate for clients without resources and do not charge for our services until we see to it that they are compensated for the wrongs they have suffered. Stephanie’s dedication to fairness and equal justice under the law is in perfect alignment with our firm’s values.

Stephanie graduated from the UCLA School of Law in 2001 with outstanding grades. While at UCLA, she already showed her interest in justice as a board member and volunteer at the UCLA Free Clinic. During her law school years she clerked at the Los Angeles Federal Public Defender’s office. She was also an extern for the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

In her role as a Deputy Public Defender in San Francisco she served as:

  • Felony trial attorney, representing indigents accused in felony cases, including three strikes cases
  • Research and writing attorney, writing motions, writs and appeals and answering questions for all the attorneys in the Public Defender Office
  • Swing attorney, stepping in on short notice for attorneys out of the office to arraign new cases, interview clients, write investigation requests, and conduct preliminary hearings
  • Misdemeanor Trial Attorney, handling a large caseload that involved working with case managers and community services to manage all trial preparation for case litigation.

Stephanie lives in Oakland, the city where our office is located, with her husband, son and dog they adopted from a local animal shelter.

An Important Year For Asbestos Litigation – Kazan Law Highlights From 2014

asbestos litigationThe year 2014 was an important one for favorable asbestos litigation verdicts and landmark decisions our firm was able to achieve for our clients. Our precedent-setting work will also benefit many other victims of harmful asbestos exposure and personal injury. Here are several highlights:

$11 Million Award in Wrongful Death Asbestos Litigation

The year 2014 started with January’s Alameda County $11 million verdict in a wrongful death asbestos litigation suit (Emily Bankhead, Tammy Bankhead, and Debbie Bankhead Meiers v. ArvinMeritor, Inc., et al.,) against Pneumo Abex LLC.

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 fatal mesothelioma. 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.

$5 Million Asbestos Litigation Verdict Upheld for Mesothelioma Victim

In April, a California court of appeals upheld a $5,437,882 verdict for malignant mesothelioma patient James Hellam against industrial-products supplier Crane Co. (Hellam v. Crane Co).

The appellate court held that evidence supported the finding that Crane’s gaskets and cement were defectively designed because they emitted and exposed Hellam to significant levels of toxic asbestos fibers during ordinary use. The court agreed that the jury rightly attributed Crane’s products being the cause of Hellam’s malignant mesothelioma.

The appeals court affirmed the trial court’s award of over $85,000 in litigation costs to Hellam and the following compensation for damages:

  • Economic damages = $937, 882.56
  • Non-economic damages = $4,500,000.00
  • Total = $5,437.882.56

Landmark Victory in Take Home Asbestos Exposure Case

In May, the California Court of Appeal reversed a lower court’s ruling that would have dismissed a take home asbestos litigation 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).

The appellate court decision was especially significant 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.

A Precedent-Setting Victory in State Supreme Court

The California Supreme Court 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).  Mr. Scott’s mesothelioma cancer was caused by prolonged asbestos exposure from automotive brakes.

A jury awarded Patrick Scott $1.5 million in damages and legal costs against Ford in November 2012 after the trial team presented clear evidence that Ford knew of the asbestos exposure risks in their products and failed to warn Mr. Scott.

In March, a California appellate court upheld the $1.5 million judgment. Ford then tried to claim that the judgment needed further review because Ford’s headquarters are in Michigan, a state with no legal punitive damages. But in a precedent setting decision for asbestos litigation and other types of personal injury law cases, the court agreed 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.

Judge Decides in Favor of Case Going to Trial

In July, an old laboratory parts catalog provided an Alameda County Superior Court judge with sufficient evidence to decide that Kazan Law clients James and Louise Leonard could take the next step in asbestos litigation.

Judge Jo-Lynne Q. Lee decided that their case Leonard v. Avantor Performance Materials, Inc., et al., could move forward to trial. At his deposition, Mr. Leonard was refused a product catalog by a product supplier to help him identify asbestos-containing parts he worked with. But when given a catalog, Mr. Leonard was able to provide the identifying information.

Kazan Law Foundation a Top Donor for Chronicle Season of Sharing Fund

Kazan LawThrough our 40 years of practicing law as mesothelioma lawyers at Kazan Law, all of us have seen heartbreak up close. It stays with us. It compels us to give back. That’s why we created our firm’s foundation. Over the last 20 years we have given over $20 million in grants to a range of community, educational and civic organizations, including $6 million for mesothelioma research. This is one way we give back to the mesothelioma community whose rights we fight for as mesothelioma lawyers.

At this special time of year, when the store windows are full of glitter and glamorous expensive gifts, we at Kazan Law are acutely aware that for many people it is a challenge just to meet their basic needs for food and shelter. Seeing the abundance around them and joy during the holiday season makes their lack even more poignant. So at this time of year, we are proud to be listed as a major donor to the Chronicle Season of Sharing Fund. As we did last year, the Kazan Law foundation has donated $20,000 to this wonderful cause. We are proud of the work we do as mesothelioma lawyers and grateful that our success makes it possible for us to help those in need.

The Chronicle Season of Sharing Fund provides temporary assistance to help people living in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano and Sonoma counties.

Since 1986, the Chronicle Season of Sharing Fund has raised more than $98 million to help thousands of Bay Area families. The Fund offers grants to help families in crisis so they can pay for housing and emergency needs. Through a network of more than 120 community service agencies, the Fund works to identify families in need and provide short-term, critical assistance grants.

Grants from the Fund can help families in any number of ways, such as paying the rent so they can stay in their home, covering a security deposit so they can transition out of a homeless shelter, or buying a wheelchair or other essential medical equipment that they couldn’t otherwise afford. In addition, the Chronicle Season of Sharing Fund supports food banks and distributes nearly $1 million each year to assist individuals and families who might otherwise go hungry. You can read some of their stories here.

Appellate Court Orders Quick Trial Date for Dying Asbestos Plaintiff

asbestos plaintiffWe are pleased to report that Division Three of the First District of the California Court of Appeal has issued a unanimous opinion ordering the trial court to grant preferential trial status to asbestos plaintiff Gerald Boyd.

Asbestos Plaintiff Exposed Over Four Decades

Mr. Boyd, 71 years old, is rapidly dying of mesothelioma caused by exposure to asbestos in the 1940s through the 1980s from the U.S. Steel facility in Pittsburg, CA. Exposure from 1947 to at least 1963 was take home exposure through Mr. Boyd’s father, who worked at U.S. Steel. Exposure from 1967 to at least 1984 was from Mr. Boyd’s exposure as a result of his own work at U.S. Steel.

Mr. Boyd (and his wife Judith) moved for a statutory preference in their trial date, presenting a detailed declaration from his treating oncologist at the University of California, San Francisco that his ability to participate in a trial is diminishing and that there is doubt he will live beyond another six months. This required trial preference under governing California law.

Three giant defendants (U.S. Steel, MW Custom Papers (MeadWestvaco), and Owens-Illinois, worth a combined $16+ billion and anxious to avoid paying Mr. Boyd for the pain they had caused him) opposed preference, presenting no evidence but questioning the treating doctor’s medical opinions.

Kazan Law asked the First District for help, petitioning for an emergency order compelling the trial court to give us a trial date. That court quickly saw the Boyds’ entitlement to relief and, in a unanimous opinion authored by Justice Stuart R. Pollak, granted urgent relief, holding that the Boyds’ “entitlement to relief is obvious” and ordering the trial court to grant preference and set trial to begin no later than February 28, 2015.

We are hopeful that this early trial date will allow Mr. Boyd to see his case to completion so that he can see justice while he yet lives, and can be assured that his family’s financial future is secured.

Mesothelioma Lawyers Help Fund Public Justice Attorney

Mesothelioma Lawyers

Jennifer Bennett
Photo credit: Public Justice

Because of what we have learned in our practice as mesothelioma lawyers, we give back in the area of safeguarding public justice. It is one of our guiding principles at Kazan Law. We fund mesothelioma research to help find new treatments for this terrible disease.  But we also help fund nonprofit groups who are trying to help keep the scales of justice balanced.

One of the organizations that we support is aptly named Public Justice.  Based in Washington D.C. and Oakland, it is widely considered to be America’s leading public interest law firm. According to its mission statement, it:

  • protects people and the environment
  • holds the powerful accountable
  • challenges government, corporate, and individual wrongdoing
  • increases access to justice
  • combats threats to our justice system
  • inspires lawyers and others to serve the public interest

Kazan Law helps fund Public Justice by co-underwriting together with another firm a full-time position for one of their attorneys.

Jennifer Bennett is the Kazan Budd attorney for Public Justice.  She works in the organization’s Oakland, California office.

Jennifer graduated in 2010 from Yale, one of the top law schools in the country. While there, she was a senior editor of the Yale Law Journal, managing editor of the Yale Law & Policy Review and received honors from the Dean. She could have become a big corporate lawyer. But instead Jennifer chose the path of public justice and to defend the defenseless. While still at Yale, she was a member of the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic, which represents immigrants and low-wage workers in labor, immigration and civil rights cases.

Currently she is working on a public safety case involving Chrysler, the maker of Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep vehicles. She is providing legal support for the Center for Auto Safety and drivers in several states in a class action suit alleging not only that certain Chrysler models are defective, but that the company has known about – and concealed – the defect for years.

“The public has a right to know whether (or not) there’s evidence that the cars they are driving might kill them,” Jennifer states in a recent post she wrote for the Public Justice blog.  With public safety at risk and lives possibly endangered because alleged corporate neglect, this sounds like our kind of fight. All of us mesothelioma lawyers and our support staff at Kazan Law are proud to sponsor this public-minded attorney in her important work.

As mesothelioma lawyers who seek justice for innocent people exposed to asbestos, we have seen many, many times the tragic results when corporations are unimpeded in their drive to place profits over people and basic decency. We as a people cannot trust these business entities with public safety any more than you can expect the proverbial fox to guard the chickens.

Asbestos Bankruptcy Trusts Explained

Asbestos bankruptcy trusts are a complex but important aspect of asbestos litigation. This is video of the presentation I was asked to give on how asbestos bankruptcy trusts work at the 2014 International Mesothelioma Interest Group conference in Cape Town, South Africa last month. Here are some highlights.

How Asbestos Bankruptcy Trusts Started

The asbestos bankruptcy industry – and I call it that- started in 1982 with the first asbestos bankruptcies. There are now about 50 asbestos bankruptcy trusts. They came about because of asbestos litigation –and corporate decisions to evade full responsibility for the death and disease they caused– we sued enough companies often enough and beat them badly enough that many of them decided they had enough and needed to find a legal way to pay up and move on.

I have been involved with almost all of these bankruptcies and resulting trusts since the beginning, often as a chair or co-chair of what is known as the victims’ creditors or advisory committees.  That means I am one of the watchdogs who help make sure that the victims’ interests are being served.  In fact, the Wall Street Journal reported that our firm is involved with more trusts and handle more trust funds than any other American law firm.

Asbestos Bankruptcy Trust Assets and Payouts

The US bankruptcy trusts to date have already paid out over $21 billion dollars.

We’ve put together a list of their assets which is a daunting task because it requires us to dig through a lot of records filed with the courts.

This year’s figures aren’t public but as of the end of last year, the asbestos bankruptcy trusts together have close to $32 billion dollars in assets. This is money that is set aside to be paid out over the next 30 to 40 years to asbestos victims.  The funds earn about 5 percent annually on their investments so they will ultimately pay out well above their current asset total.

The bulk of the funds go to mesothelioma cases. The amount paid on each case is based on the number of present cases and how many cases are projected for the future divided into the amount in each trust. Under this formula, a typical shipyard worker or construction worker with mesothelioma would receive about $260,000.

Are You Eligible To Receive Funds From an Asbestos Bankruptcy Trust?

To be eligible to receive funds from a bankruptcy trust, you do not need to prove that the company’s products contained asbestos. The companies involved have admitted that their products contained asbestos and were handled by workers at sites around the country and aboard many ships. We’ve got lists of them. There are 115,000 identified sites in the U.S. plus 19,000 ships. You just need to prove that you worked at one of them and that you are now ill.

All the trusts provide information on how to file a claim on their websites. We’ve made the procedures the same for each trust.

For a claim to be approved you must show:

  • Exposure to a product of the company for which that trust is responsible, when and where you worked and your trade or job, and what asbestos disease you have.
  • Claimant’s occupation when claimant worked with the product
  • Time period claimant worked with the product
  • Asbestos-related disease
  • Who claimant’s dependents are
  • Claimant’s medical expenses and/or economic loss (optional]

If you have any questions about asbestos bankruptcy trusts after you watch the video, please email me and I will answer them for you.

Accidental Mesothelioma Treatment Led to Longest Survival in Medical Literature

In this video I discuss the case of a Kazan Law client whose misdiagnosis and subsequent treatment led to the longest mesothelioma survival documented in medical literature. The lesson is that aggressive mesothelioma treatment–surgery–can significantly prolong a person’s life.

Promising Mesothelioma Research Nets Awards For Young Scientists

mesothelioma researchMesothelioma research can be expected to make great strides in the coming years thanks to new exciting work underway now all over the world by young scientific investigators. Five of this promising group just received the Young Investigator Travel Awards at the twelfth biennial meeting of the International Mesothelioma Interest Group (iMig 2014), held in Capetown, South Africa. Our firm is proud to have initiated this important award in 2008 and to continue to sponsor it. On behalf of all of us at Kazan, McClain, Satterley and Greenwood, we would like to offer our congratulations on receiving the Young Investigator Travel Awards to each of these promising young mesothelioma research scientists.

Their achievements are a source of pride and inspiration to all of us involved in mesothelioma who seek new pathways to treat and cure this devastating disease. We hope they realize how many people – those with mesothelioma, their families and those of us who strive to help them medically and legally – appreciate the outstanding work they are doing in this field.

It is always a pleasure to see hard-working forward-thinking young researchers receiving the recognition they deserve. The award reflects the endless hours they have spent in their labs on their mesothelioma research projects.

We look forward to seeing the results of their future work in mesothelioma research and wish them every success.

2014 iMig Young Investigator Award Recipients

Sébastien Anguille, MD is a researcher at the University of Antwerp and Antwerp University Hospital
Edegem Belgium. He is one of the authors of a recent paper “Dendritic cell vaccination in malignant pleural mesothelioma: A phase I/II study” published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Lincun Wu, MD is a research associate with the University Health Network in Toronto, Canada’s Mesothelioma Research Program at the Princess Margaret Cancer Center. There, Dr. Wu is involved in a research project to improve the outcome of mesothelioma by combining chemotherapy with immunotherapy.

Alistair Cook, PhD is a research assistant professor in the School of Medicine and Pharmacology of the University of Western Australia. He is the lead author of a recent study about a potential new way to improve anti-tumor immunity or chemo-immunotherapy efficacy in mesothelioma treatment.

Tanguy Siewert, MD is an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Chicago. He specializes in head, neck and lung cancers. He studies which novel drugs appear most promising, which individual tumors are more likely to respond to these treatments, and how to successfully combine therapies. Dr. Seiwert uses this pre-clinical knowledge to develop new treatments for use in clinical trials, and to ultimately improve patient care.

Kimberly Birnie is earning a PhD at the Lung Institute of the University of Western Australia where she is focused on malignant mesothelioma research. She has been recognized by the Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand for her work

Asbestos Bankruptcy Trust Funds Update

I was honored to have been asked to give an oral presentation on changes in the U.S. asbestos bankruptcy trust fund system at the 2014 conference of the International Mesothelioma Interest Group (iMig) this week in Cape Town, South Africa.

This video will give you a basic understanding of asbestos bankruptcy trust funds and who is eligible to file a claim.

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