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.