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Dianna Lyons

Appeals Court Upholds $5 Million Verdict for Malignant Mesothelioma Patient

malignant mesothelioma

James Hellam

Our mesothelioma law firm is pleased to announce that a California court of appeals has upheld a $5,437,882 verdict for malignant mesothelioma patient James Hellam against industrial-products supplier Crane Co. (Hellam v. Crane Co., Nos. A138013 and A139141, 2014 WL 1492725 Cal. Ct. App., 1st Dist. Apr. 16, 2014).

Kazan Law partners Frank Fernandez and Dianna Lyons, now retired, won the original verdict last March for Hellam, a 66 year-old motivational speaker and former police officer. Kazan Law attorneys Ted Pelletier and Ian Rivamonte led the successful appeal. 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

A Hall of Fame softball player, Hellam had taken great pride in coaching his two sons on the ball field and was greatly looking forward to teaching his young grandsons how to play his beloved sport. Hellam had also anticipated continuing his career as a global motivational speaker for at least another decade and continuing to travel the world with his wife.

Now instead of doing the things he loved with the people he loved and enriching the world around him, James Hellam is struggling to withstand the ravages of malignant mesothelioma.

Although he had spent 13 years as a San Jose police officer before becoming a motivational speaker and leadership trainer, the seeds of Hellam’s malignant mesothelioma were sown longer ago in his past. For five consecutive summers as a kid, he worked for his grandfather’s boiler business in Monterey.

Neither Hellam nor his grandfather were warned that the products purchased from Crane’s “Crane Supply” wholesale outlet in Salinas, California for the process of refurbishing boilers contained asbestos and were a health hazard. Yet our firm presented evidence showing that Crane corporate officers knew or should have known as early as the 1930s that asbestos causes diseases that kill.

Talking With Dianna Lyons, A Fearless Ally in Asbestos Litigation

Dianna Lyons

Dianna Lyons

Here at Kazan Law, one of the top asbestos litigation law firms in the nation, all of our attorneys excel at advocating for victims of asbestos exposure and their families. But in the 40 years that we have been practicing asbestos litigation, one of the best attorneys I’ve had working here was Dianna Lyons.

So for today’s Throwback Thursday post commemorating Kazan Law’s 40th Anniversary, I spoke with Dianna, who retired from Kazan Law in December.

Unlike most attorneys, Dianna Lyons came from a family of California migrant farm workers. This background gave her a powerful connection to our clients.  To all of us who work so vigorously to get justice for asbestos victims, our clients become almost like family. That was certainly true for Dianna, and that gave her an intensity and focus we all admired.

“Every client I ever represented for Kazan Law was a salt-of-the-earth type of person. Working long hours on their cases in a race with the Grim Reaper, I’d get to know them all really well.  And I’d realize that had we met under different circumstances, we would have been friends.  I’d look at them and think this guy went to work to make a living, not to die, and not to kill his wife or his kids.  People who made and sold the asbestos materials knew of the dangers of asbestos exposure and just gambled with someone else’s life,” reflects Dianna.

When Dianna joined us in 1992, she had been working for the United Farm Workers, the grassroots organization started by Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez to help protect the safety and basic rights of farm workers.  She had been with the UFW since its founding in 1966 during the era of the famous grape boycott.

Dianna had worked her way through Modesto Junior College and Cal State Stanislaus milking 150 cows twice a day. She told me she switched to working nights for an insurance company to put herself through law school at UC Davis.

“It paid less but I didn’t get kicked,” she quipped.

During her 22 years here, Dianna Lyons started our appellate and motion department. She also never let being a woman in a male-dominated field get in her way.

“In my family, what mattered was how fast you were at picking fruit in the fields. Not whether you were a male or female. So I never had a mindset with gender boundaries.”

Dianna said that one major difference from when she started at Kazan Law happened when the companies that made the most obvious sources of asbestos exposure such as pipe covering and block insulation began to shield themselves from asbestos litigation by declaring bankruptcy.  Asbestos litigation work became more challenging because we had to find the less obvious asbestos exposures from such products as gaskets, valve packing and vehicle brakes that contributed to causing our client’s usually terminal disease.

“We couldn’t sue the pipe covering manufacturer because they’d gone bankrupt, so we had to go after the companies that made the gaskets, packing, brakes and other construction materials,” she recalled.

“In a case that Frank Fernandez and I tried about 14 years ago, the client had worked for Johns-Manville. They went bankrupt and sold the plant. Our client made plastic pipe but to get to his job, he had to walk through the part of the plant where they made asbestos cement pipe.  That is where the asbestos exposure came from. We got a $20 million verdict,” she said.

“One thing that always remained the same is the dedication and zeal at our firm. I liked that we always did quality work.  Sure, it involved a lot of 16 hour days seven days a week.  But there was never a dull moment. There is something about knowing you are doing a righteous job for a really good human being that gives you energy,” Dianna said.

New Year, New Name for Kazan Law

Kazan LawIt’s a new year and our firm has a new name.  A new year is always an excellent time for change, revitalization and renewal. Sometimes change is by choice; you initiate it. Other times change comes to you unbidden and you need to embrace that change and embrace the opportunities it brings.

Here at Kazan Law, we have had change come our way even though we did not seek it.  We were Kazan, McClain, Satterley, Lyons, Greenwood & Oberman.  As of today, our new name is Kazan, McClain, Satterley & Greenwood, a Professional Law Corporation—a reflection of two of our longtime partners choosing retirement.

Dianna Lyons and James Oberman are difficult to say goodbye and farewell to – although we do most emphatically wish them both well.  Both these veteran attorneys are giants in the field and have been with me for many years.  Jim was a certified appellate specialist who did outstanding motion and appeals work and Dianna was a great appellate lawyer who became an accomplished trial lawyer with us. I’ll be giving you a closer look at each of their careers as a proper send-off soon. For now just know that we will miss them.

But as the chapters on their careers at Kazan Law and in asbestos litigation close, new chapters will open. New brilliant young minds fresh from law school and on fire to change the world – or at least a piece of it – will find their way to our door. We will welcome them in just as we once welcomed Dianna Lyons and James Oberman.  And new attorneys will work with us to help you and your families as we always have.

Bottom line?  We’re still Kazan Law.  That hasn’t changed.  We are still the ground-breaking top-ranked asbestos litigation firm we’ve been for decades. We remain passionately committed to fighting for the rights of victims of asbestos exposure and trail blazing new precedents in asbestos law.

Kazan Law is a nationally recognized plaintiffs’ asbestos law firm with a particular expertise as asbestos lawyers fighting for victims of mesothelioma, a cancer that is a result of exposure to airborne asbestos fibers. Some of the principals in our firm are pioneers in asbestos litigation and among the most experienced asbestos lawyers in California. Our attorneys have been instrumental in winning precedent-setting rulings by the California Appellate and Supreme Courts that have impacted asbestos law in California and ensured that asbestos victims have the opportunity to seek justice in the court system against those who caused their illness.

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.

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A Professional Law Corporation.