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Kazan Law Asbestos Attorneys Chosen for National Trial Lawyers Top 100 List

asbestos attorneysI am proud to announce that two partners here at our firm have been selected for the National Trial Lawyers Top 100 list for this year. The two asbestos attorneys singled out for recognition at our firm are me, Steven Kazan and Kazan Law principal partner Gordon Greenwood.

Membership in The National Trial Lawyers is limited to the Top 100 civil plaintiff and criminal defense lawyers in each state or from highly-populated regions of states. The criteria for membership include:

  • Reputation among peers, the judiciary and the public
  • Achievements, settlements and verdicts as a trial lawyer
  • Board certification as a trial lawyer
  • Nominations from leading trial lawyers, current members and Executive Committee members
  • Leadership and membership in other national and state trial lawyer organizations
  • Rankings and ratings by leading national evaluation organizations

Since joining Kazan Law in 1998, Gordon Greenwood has represented hundreds of people who worked with or around asbestos containing products, or whose families did. In addition to representing victims of asbestos disease, Gordon also maintains a caseload of pro bono cases. Prior to joining Kazan Law, Gordon spent eight years as a trial lawyer in the San Francisco Public Defender’s office personally giving quality legal representation to those accused of crimes without means to defend themselves.

I am proud of the expert team we have built here at Kazan Law over the past 40 years. Whenever we win a case for our clients, it is partly because of the thorough intelligent work that has been done in previous cases by our colleagues and the generous sharing of experience and knowledge here that we encourage. In helping each other we help our clients. And that’s the goal we all strive for here.

Kazan Law Summer Clerks Reflect On Asbestos Law Experience

asbestos lawSummer clerks at Kazan Law learn that asbestos law practice is different from most other types of law. Our historic stance on advocating on behalf of victims of asbestos exposure often pits us against the type of big companies that many law firms seek to represent. But we find that law students who choose to work with our plaintiff’s asbestos law practice for the summer are a special breed and passionate about serving the greater public good. As they leave us to return to school, here’s what this summer’s clerks had to say about their asbestos law experience with us:

Luis Landeros, third year law student at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law

I take away from my experience at Kazan a reaffirmation that even the little guy who has been wronged can obtain some form of justice.

Law school focuses on theory and precedent so you never have a chance to really understand or comprehend the amount of work it takes to take a case to trial. Working at Kazan definitely made that clear.   It was an extremely valuable experience to work on the different stages of a case and seeing the interplay of different factors.

Tenette Smith, third year law student at the University of San Francisco School of Law.

One of the most important things I learned at Kazan, McClain, Satterley & Greenwood is how fundamental the law is to ensuring safety in the workplace; the place we spend the majority of our time each day.

At times it was heartbreaking to hear the tragic news of clients that had ultimately succumbed to their diseases.  However, I have an immense sense of pride to have been actively involved in the litigation that brought the families that the clients left behind a sense of security as they move forward in their lives without their loved one.  As I continue to grow in my legal career, I will remember to always be critical, to be aware, to be involved, and most of all to be compassionate.

Anthony Caruthers, third year law student at the University Of San Francisco School Of Law

The many individual meetings I had with my supervising attorneys changed how I will approach litigation and the practice of law in general. Moving forward, I will always keep in mind the influence individuals can have on the world and people around them. Every person I interacted with this summer was an excellent person who diligently sought justice for their clients. I had not experienced real passion for a legal practice until I came to Kazan. Such realness is rare today, and I now know that I will not be satisfied until I am in an organization filled with great people who desire to make a real difference in their community. I am truly thankful for the opportunity to work at a place like Kazan.

Yuki Cruze Before working at Kazan, I had only heard rumors of how much work it takes to put on a trial, but to actually see the firm abuzz with everyone working diligently toward a common goal was truly eye opening. I have gained many practical skills from working at Kazan, but the most important thing I learned is how important it is to be a zealous advocate in all aspects of litigation.

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.

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.

Landmark Case That Changed Asbestos Law

asbestos law

From San Francisco Chronicle July 4, 1980

Today as an asbestos victim, you can count on being able to sue those responsible.  If you are the survivor of a family member who died because of asbestos exposure, you also can count on being able to file a wrongful death suit.  The pioneering practice of asbestos law at Kazan Law helped make this possible.  We not only practice under existing asbestos litigation rules, we help create those rules.

When I first started my career as a personal injury attorney, asbestos law as we know it today did not exist. To commemorate Kazan Law’s 40th anniversary, we’ll take a look at one of my first cases against the Johns-Manville Company.  It was a landmark victory that changed asbestos law forever.

Reba Rudkin, the plaintiff in the case, had been dead for several months by the time the state Supreme Court made its landmark decision. Mr. Rudkin’s death was attributed to “lung cancer” at the time, caused by on-the-job asbestos exposure which also caused his asbestosis .

Mr. Rudkin had worked for 29 years at a now closed Johns-Manville plant in Pittsburg, CA where industrial products like asbestos cement boards and panels were made.

A San Francisco Chronicle newspaper article, aptly published on July 4 1980, a day after the court decision, notes:

According to Rudkin’s attorney, Steven Kazan, yesterday’s ruling was the first time a California court has permitted a worker to sue his employer for injury since 1917, except for minor cases of physical assault.

Yes, that ruling was a game changer.

In a 5 – 2 decision, the court said the alleged misconduct by Johns-Manville was flagrant enough to provide an exception to a state worker’s compensation law that had prevented workers from suing employers for work related diseases or injuries

Employers were immune then from injury lawsuits under the 1917 Worker’s Compensation Act because it said workers could only seek compensation through the labor department, not through injury lawsuits in the courts.

Using an approach that is now standard, we filed a civil lawsuit against Johns-Manville in 1974 (Rudkin v Johns Manville et al), arguing that the Worker’s Compensation Act should not shield the company and its executives from fraud and conspiracy charges.  With Mr. Rudkin suffering from the lung disease that would soon kill him, we sued Johns-Manville for fraud and conspiracy in inducing him to work in an environment they knew was dangerous.

In a deposition for the case, Johns-Manville’s former plant manager had testified that there was in fact a “hush hush” policy to suppress information about the health hazards of asbestos.

Justice Stanley Mosk, in the majority decision, ruled that a worker or his family could sue “for aggravation of the disease because of the employer’s fraudulent concealment.”

This established an exception to the workers compensation exclusive remedy rule, later codified in Section 3602(b)(2) of the California Labor Code. It also opened a pathway for hundreds of other sick and dying former employees  to seek justice from Johns-Manville and other big companies.

This case also determined that the family of a plaintiff who died during a pending court case had the right to continue the suit. This also was a very important ruling that has helped many families achieve justice and compensation from companies responsible for the death of their loved one.

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