42 Years - A Professional Law Corporation - Helping Asbestos Victims Since 1974


Court Tells Asbestos Defendant ArvinMeritor that it Cannot Waste The Court’s or Plaintiff’s Time

judge's decisionAutomobile and commercial truck components manufacturer ArvinMeritor seems to believe that it should not be held accountable for its actions. Fortunately, the justice system believes otherwise.  As I previously reported, an Alameda County jury found ArvinMeritor liable for punitive damages for its wrongful conduct in exposing workers to asbestos. As it upheld the punitive damages award, the appellate court noted that the evidence was clear —“ArvinMeritor’s conduct continued over many years, and evinced an indifference to or reckless disregard of the health and safety of [workers] and those similarly situated.”

More recently, ArvinMeritor intentionally ignored a court’s order and filed a frivolous motion, without legal or factual support, in an attempt to burden two plaintiffs as they sought justice through the legal system. A steadfast local judge, the Honorable Jo-Lynne Q. Lee, denied ArvinMeritor’s motion and fined ArvinMeritor’s counsel, national defense law firm Hawkins Parnell Thackston & Young LLP, for advancing a meritless position.

ArvinMeritor’s request would have increased the financial and time burden on the plaintiffs and their counsel. ArvinMeritor also represented to Judge Lee that its position was justified by the facts of the case and the law.  Neither was true, and Judge Lee quickly and appropriately responded.  She concluded that “ArvinMeritor’s position was not substantially justified” and ordered Hawkins Parnell to pay the plaintiffs monetary sanctions for their time opposing the motion.

Even though Hawkins Parnell knew it was clearly wrong, ArvinMeritor’s counsel disregarded the law and moved forward with the motion, wasting the Court’s and the plaintiff’s time.  The Court is applauded for reminding corporate defendants and their counsel that such actions will not go unpunished

Appellate Judge Upholds $13.5 Million Award in Asbestos Case

In separate decisions, a California appeals court recently affirmed  punitive-damages awards totaling $ 13.5 million  that the jury returned in a Kazan, McClain, Satterley & Greenwood asbestos case  against ArvinMeritor, Inc. and Pneumo Abex, LLC, describing ArvinMeritor’s conduct as “highly reprehensible”  and concluding ample evidence supported Pneumo Abex’s ability to pay its portion of the award.

Writing for the First Appellate District, Justice Ignazio Ruvolo wrote on April 19 that ArvinMeritor, the successor to brake shoe manufacturer Rockwell, knowingly exposed workers to asbestos without placing warnings on its products for years.

“By the 1960s, ArvinMeritor knew that workers exposed to asbestos dust were at risk of developing asbestos-related diseases,” Ruvolo wrote. “Indeed, in 1973 and again in 1975, it wrote letters to (Pneumo Abex) and other manufacturers complaining about the presence of asbestos dust in the brake linings it was receiving from them. Nonetheless, ArvinMeritor did not place any warnings on its products until the early 1980s, and continued to market asbestos-containing brakes until its inventory of them was exhausted sometime in the early 1990s.”

On April 26, the same appellate court concluded that the evidence adduced at trial — including that Pneumo Abex obtained $207 million upon the sale of its asbestos-containing brake-lining business in 1994 — fully supported the $9.5 million award the jury assessed against Pneumo Abex.

Couple wins fight for compensation

Gordon Bankhead, who worked as a parts man repairing heavy duty vehicles between 1965 and 1999, regularly handled  and worked in proximity to brakes  that contained asbestos , which led him to inhale the carcinogenic mineral fibers.

Mr. Bankhead spent the majority of his career with Sea-Land Shipping Company, which purchased brake shoes from ArvinMeritor predecessor Rockwell  and other suppliers that contained asbestos-containing linings manufactured by Pheumo Abex.  Mr. Bankhead  was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma in January 2010 .

We  represented Mr. and Mrs. Bankhead in a trial that began on October 25, 2010.  The evidence indicated that the companies involved were aware of the dangers of asbestos exposure for a number of years, but Rockwell did not stop selling asbestos brakes until 2000.

Gordon Bankhead, who died last October as a result of  his mesothelioma, and his wife Emily were  awarded $ 13.5 million in punitive damages and  nearly $ 4 million in compensatory damages.

Award highlights the deadly risks of asbestos

The compensation award to the Bankheads following their legal battle represents the latest instance of companies being held liable for their actions that contributed to the diagnoses of serious illnesses.

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