Sometimes even in the tragic world of a mesothelioma case, there is reason to celebrate. At Kazan Law that is what keeps us doing what we do. When we snatch victory from the jaws of defeat for our clients through tenacious asbestos litigation and are able to get justice in a mesothelioma case, it’s a good day.
In our latest victory, we achieved justice for not only the specific mesothelioma case we were representing but for all mesothelioma cases. That is because the court upheld two important principles in asbestos law:
- That the average working person cannot be expected to have the same level of scientific knowledge about the long term consequences of asbestos exposure that the decision-makers at a large company should have.
- That a company cannot be let off the hook for causing injury to someone in one state because the laws of the state where the company has its headquarters are different.
These are important concepts. We are very proud of our work in this case well handled by Ted Pelletier and our appellate and motions team, and of the brilliant appellate court that protected the rights of all citizens.
Specifically, a California appellate court upheld a $1.5 million judgment for our client Patrick Scott and his family. They also decided that the Scotts should be allowed to pursue punitive damages which the trial court had said they couldn’t do.
Scott, a former service-station owner, was exposed to asbestos from car parts made by Ford Motor Company since the 1960s. In a published opinion in Scott v. Ford Motor Co., No. A137975, Division One of the First Appellate District first rejected Ford’s argument that Scott was a “sophisticated user” who should have known the dangers of Ford’s products. Because Ford insisted during the trial that those dangers were not scientifically established when Scott was exposed, the jury rejected Ford’s contradictory claim that he was supposed to know all about those very dangers. The opinion notes that there are different standards for what Scott as owner of a “local automotive business,” was expected to know compared to what Ford, a “large international business directly involved in the manufacture of the products” should have known.
The opinion also reinstates the Scotts’ claim for punitive damages, which the lower court had rejected because the law in Michigan, where Ford is headquartered, disallows punitive damages. Every part of this case occurred in California: Ford’s sale of its products; Scott’s exposures, his disease diagnosis and treatment. So the appeals court decided California law is what matters here. Otherwise Ford would get a free pass or as they put it “a nationwide shield from punitive damage liability,” to sell defective products in California and every other state without fear of punishment. That would be a nightmare not just for mesothelioma cases but for every case that could result from driving a car with parts that malfunctioned.