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

David McClain

Kazan Law Celebrates 40 Years of Fighting for Mesothelioma Victims

Kazan Law

Kazan Law in 1991. Partners Steven Kazan (seated) and David McClain (standing third from right) remain.


This week our firm Kazan Law, one of the top asbestos litigation firms in the US, celebrates its 40th year fighting for mesothelioma victims and winning precedent-setting verdicts.

To commemorate the occasion here’s a look back to how Kazan Law began.

Forty years ago, the workers at the Johns-Manville plant in Lompoc, California didn’t know why; they only knew that people were sick and dying.  A lot of them.  Colleagues they had worked with for many years.  So the labor union representative collected death certificates of those who had died in the last five years and wrote a letter to someone he thought could help them.  That someone was me.

The year was 1974. Telephones were attached to walls, a computer took up a whole room and companies that produced asbestos-containing products were getting away with murder.  Employees exposed to asbestos on the job were dying from asbestosis and malignant mesothelioma.

And in Oakland, California, 40 years ago, I had just hung out my shingle.  Kazan Law then was just me and a secretary. But I had all ready become known for having expertise in litigating complex medical and scientific issues in other kinds of cases, and had worked with a workers compensation attorney who was hired to get workers compensation benefits for some men who worked at the Pittsburg CA Johns Manville asbestos products plant.

Then, in 1974, shortly after going out on my own, I was asked to help by doing the civil law suits for those plant workers.  I won a precedent-setting suit for Reba Rudkin, who developed asbestosis after working for 29 years at Johns-Manville’s plant in Pittsburg, California. Following this case, I represented over one hundred asbestos-affected workers from Johns-Manville plants.

In 1982, I won a $150,000 verdict for Bob Speake, one of the workers from the Johns-Manville plant in Pittsburg in a test case trial ordered by the Superior Court in Contra Costa County, CA.  This case is regarded as a “threshold verdict” because it created the opportunity for punitive damage verdicts against Johns-Manville. Months later, just as we were getting ready to go to settlement conferences on a large group of those cases in advance of a fall 1982 trial of a group of these cases, Johns –Manville filed for bankruptcy court protection. I eventually had 393 cases pending against the company which we resolved with the Trust Fund set up after that bankruptcy.

Today Kazan Law is still headquartered in Oakland California. Kazan, McClain, Satterley  & Greenwood now has 22 attorneys, including me.  As Kazan Law celebrates its 40th anniversary this month, 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.  An $11 million verdict was just announced last month in Kazan Law’s wrongful death suit on behalf of mesothelioma victim Gordon Bankhead’s wife and children.

I am proud that Kazan Law has remained at the forefront of asbestos litigation in California and nationally.  Since 1974, we have represented thousands of people – those suffering from mesothelioma and their families.  We treasure our reputation as pioneers in asbestos litigation who are among the most experienced mesothelioma lawyers in the United States.

As we celebrate our 40th anniversary, we recognize our history and its significance in asbestos litigation landmarks  and celebrate our current accomplishments as we face the future.

Pneumo Abex Corporation – A History of Asbestos Death and Disease

Pneumo AbexWhen I tell people that I am an attorney who seeks justice for those who have been exposed to asbestos, some people react with surprise. “Exposed to asbestos?” they ask.  “Does that still happen?  Is anyone exposed to asbestos anymore?”

Sadly yes. Thousands of people have been exposed to asbestos in the decades since it has become common knowledge about the fatal damage that being exposed to asbestos causes to the lungs. People are being exposed to asbestos right now.  I wish this wasn’t true.

But there are two types of people in this world.  There are people who try to do well by doing good. And unfortunately there are people who will do anything for money. Even if it gets innocent people killed. And that is how people get exposed to asbestos.

Consider the Pneumo Abex Corporation.  Founded in 1928 in Portsmouth, Virginia as the American Brake Shoe and Foundry, Pneumo Abex produced asbestos-containing products until 1987.

Gordon Bankhead worked with Pneumo Abex brake linings from 1965 to 1999 servicing and repairing vehicles at an Oakland, CA shipping company. He helped inspect, replace and grind asbestos-containing brakes. In doing this, he breathed deadly asbestos dust. He died from mesothelioma in 2011 at age 68.

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 the Bankhead family. This follows a January 2011 verdict assessing punitive damages against Phuemo Abex LLC of $9 million along with compensatory damages for Mr. Bankhead’s pain and suffering and for his wife Emily’s suffering as she watched his disease progress and take his life.

Evidence our firm brought forward in the Bankhead case and an earlier case (Robert Frank Smith and Mary Lou Smith v. Pneumo Abex LLC, Los Angeles County Superior Court No. BC396072) proved that Pneumo Abex knew of the deadly health effects of breathing asbestos dust since at least the 1940s, but that Pneumo Abex did not begin warning  customers of those effects until years after their customers’ employees like Mr. Bankhead and Mr. Smith were exposed to the asbestos-containing brakes it made and sold. In fact, Pneumo Abex was involved in medical studies on the health effects of asbestos during the 1930s and 1940s and its medical director was a frequent speaker on asbestos health hazards during the 1940s.

The company knew by then that asbestos killed. By the 1950s they knew it caused lung cancer and by 1963 they knew it caused mesothelioma. Despite its knowledge of the hazards of asbestos, Pneumo Abex continued to sell asbestos-containing brakes until 1987 without warning its victims of the dangers of asbestos or the risk of fatal cancer.

Kazan Partner David McClain Serves as Key Witness in Major Asbestos Bankruptcy Trial

David McClainBecause of Kazan, McClain, Satterley & Greenwood’s acknowledged expertise in asbestos claims, one of our principal partners David McClain recently was asked to serve as a key fact witness in a major asbestos bankruptcy case underway in Charlotte, NC.[1]  The outcome of this trial will determine how much Garlock Sealing Technologies and its parent company Enpro will have to pay into a trust fund for victims exposed to its asbestos-containing products.

According to David, “It was acknowledged by the counsel representing both present and future asbestos victims that we are among the foremost experts in this type of litigation and would be in the best position to tell the judge about Garlock’s liability.”

Garlock wants to set aside about $270 million for the trust. The claimants are asking for over a billion dollars from Garlock and its parent company Enpro.

As part of its legal strategy, Garlock filed for asbestos reorganization in federal bankruptcy court. The gasket manufacturing company’s case went to trial in early August to determine its total liability.  Although the evidence is now closed[2] a decision is not likely soon as the judge has much to consider

Garlock went to federal bankruptcy court to avoid more expensive lengthy trials for individual claims, which often resulted in big settlements. Now, to reduce the amount of the trust for claimants as part of a bankruptcy settlement, Garlock is attempting to prove that the victims’ cases are dishonest, because they may have been exposed to asbestos from sources other than their products, even though this argument has never worked for it in court when they actually tried cases.

“They (Garlock) have the money to pay up.  They just want to keep it for themselves. So they were trying to claim that the plaintiffs were being dishonest.  I countered that, and showed that it’s not true,” David commented when we discussed the case.

David pointed out to the judge how under California law, plaintiffs only need to show that the company’s gaskets increased the risk of developing mesothelioma, the fatal cancer caused by asbestos exposure. This ruling provided incentive for Garlock to avoid individual trials by paying its fair share in settlements of those cases.

When the judge hands down a decision on this asbestos bankruptcy case, I will report to you about it right here on the Kazan Law Blog.

[1]    Evolving litigation landscape led to settlements, witness testifies at Garlock trial; Legal Newsline; Aug 7, 2013

[2]  Garlock bankruptcy trial concludes in N.C.; Legal Newsline; Aug 23, 2013

Kazan Law Attorneys Named to Super Lawyers for 9th Consecutive Year

Kazan Law Super Lawyers

We are very proud to announce that Kazan Law attorneys have been named to the prestigious Super Lawyers list for the ninth consecutive year.

What is Super Lawyers?

Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The selection process is multi-phased and includes independent research, peer nominations and peer evaluations.

We are honored to have these Kazan Law attorneys included in this list which represents no more than 5 percent of the lawyers in the state of California.

Steven Kazan: Super Lawyer 2004-2012
David McClain: Super Lawyer 2004-2012
Gordon Greenwood: Super Lawyer 2004, 2006-2012

Rising Stars

Super Lawyers Rising Stars recognize the top up-and-coming attorneys in the state. Rising Stars are considered by their peers as the best attorneys under the age of 40, or who have been practicing law 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 2011-2012
Gloria Amell: Rising Star 2011-2012
William Ruiz: Rising Star 2012


5 Kazan Law Attorneys Included in The Best Lawyers in America

Kazan Law attorneys

From left Steven Kazan, David McClain, Dianna Lyons, Denise Abrams, Francis Fernandez

We are proud to announce that five Kazan Law attorneys were recently selected by their peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America® 2012 (Copyright 2011 by Woodward/White, Inc., of Aiken, S.C.):

David M. McClain (first listed 2006)
Dianna C. Lyons (first listed 2009)
Francis E. Fernandez (first year listed)

Best Lawyers has become universally regarded as the definitive guide to legal excellence since its inception in 1983. Inclusion in Best Lawyers is considered a singular honor because Best Lawyers is based on an exhaustive peer-review survey in which more than 41,000 leading attorneys cast almost 3.9 million votes on the legal abilities of other lawyers in their practice areas. Additionally, lawyers are not required or allowed to pay a fee to be listed. Corporate Counsel magazine has called Best Lawyers “the most respected referral list of attorneys in practice.”

It is important to note that the lawyers listed in Best Lawyers have no say in deciding which practice areas they are included in. They are voted into practice areas entirely as a result of the votes they receive from their peers.

Kazan Law Attorneys Named to Super Lawyers for 8th Consecutive Year

We are very pleased to announce that for the eighth consecutive year, attorneys at Kazan Law have been named to the prestigious Super Lawyers list.

Super Lawyers Selection Process

The Super Lawyers listing is developed as a resource to be used by attorneys and consumers searching for outstanding legal counsel. Super Lawyers attorneys are chosen through a rigorous, multiphase rating process which includes peer nominations and evaluations combined with third party research. We are honored to have these Kazan Law attorneys included in this list which represents no more than 5 percent of the lawyers in the state of California.

David McClain: Super Lawyer 2004-2011
Jim Oberman: Super Lawyer 2010-2011

Rising Stars

In 1998, Super Lawyers launched Rising Stars to recognize the top up-and-coming attorneys in the state. Rising Stars are considered by their peers as the best attorneys under the age of 40, or who have been practicing law for 10 years or less.Two of the Kazan Law Super Lawyers named this year have been acknowledged as Rising Stars:

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