An old laboratory parts catalog provided an Alameda County Superior Court judge with sufficient evidence to enable Kazan Law clients James and Louise Leonard to take a step towards justice with their asbestos lawsuit.
Judge Jo-Lynne Q. Lee decided that their case Leonard v. Avantor Performance Materials, Inc., et al., (Alameda County Superior Court Case No. RG13684263) could move forward to trial. The Leonards were represented by asbestos attorneys Ted Pelletier and Autumn Mesa.
James Leonard, now 71, was diagnosed with mesothelioma in May 2013. He had worked as an operator in Dow Chemical’s research department from the early 1960s to the 1970s. There he built and operated laboratory tests that investigated whether new products were ready for mass production.
Mr. Leonard’s exposure to asbestos began half a century ago and continued for nearly 10 years during his work in test labs where he wrapped glass lab equipment with asbestos and then later scraped the asbestos from the lab’s glassware. This asbestos wrap and other asbestos lab products were supplied by research laboratory product distributor VWR, along with other asbestos lab products.
At his deposition, defendants’ lawyers asked Mr. Leonard to identify the brand, manufacturer and supplier of the equipment and asbestos materials he used during the 1960s and early 1970s when he worked in labs. He couldn’t do it and said he could probably provide the information if he was shown a catalog. But the defense lawyers did not show him a catalog.
VWR asked the court to throw out the asbestos lawsuit because Mr. Leonard did not have and could not obtain sufficient evidence necessary for trial. But the judge agreed with us that defendants’ failure to show Mr. Leonard catalogs at deposition coupled with his later identification of asbestos products from VWR catalogs demonstrates that there is sufficient evidence for the case to be tried in court.
We applaud Judge Lee’s understanding that the public‘s safety is a serious matter that should not depend on a lawyer’s game of “Gotcha!” Manufacturers and distributors of dangerous products need to be held accountable for harming people even when those harmed cannot recall from memory all the 50 year-old details about each product.