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Union Pacific Liable For Worker’s Death in $6,951,000 Mesothelioma Lawsuit Verdict for Kazan Law

mesothelioma lawsuitAfter a six-week trial, an Alameda County jury has found that Union Pacific Railroad Company is responsible for a $6,951,000 mesothelioma lawsuit verdict for the suffering and wrongful death of Jeffrey Emerson, who worked as a boilermaker at the Southern Pacific Railroad from 1971 to 1995. The company merged with Union Pacific in 1997.

Mr. Emerson was regularly exposed to asbestos at Southern Pacific’s Sacramento Locomotive Shops, both directly in his job and as a bystander to the work of other craftsmen.  In July 2013, he was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, a terminal cancer.  For the next seven months, his doctors provided care and treatment. He died on January 24, 2014, just 10 days after his deposition for the mesothelioma lawsuit.

Discovery in the mesothelioma lawsuit revealed that for more than 20 years Southern Pacific had used many different types of asbestos products, including in its diesel locomotives and in piping around its facilities.  Southern Pacific did not comply with the regulatory requirements regarding asbestos for at least 15 years.  Instead it allowed workers to be exposed to asbestos without proper protection throughout the 1970s and much of the 1980s.  Only in the mid to late 1980s did Southern Pacific begin to implement some asbestos safety procedures – too late for Mr. Emerson.

Prior to trial, Union Pacific claimed immunity from the mesothelioma lawsuit based on a prior release of claims for an unrelated back injury.  The trial court denied this defense, ruling that Mr. Emerson’s release of back-injury claims cannot be construed as waiving future claims for asbestos-disease injuries.  The case proceeded on the merits under the Federal Employers Liability Act, which governs claims for railroad-workplace injuries.

At trial, Union Pacific argued that Mr. Emerson died not from asbestos-caused mesothelioma but from lung cancer caused by cigarette smoking (which Mr. Emerson quit in the early 1980s).  Alternatively, Union Pacific argued that, if Mr. Emerson did have mesothelioma, it was caused not by asbestos exposure at Southern Pacific but by earlier exposures in the Navy.  But Union Pacific’s argument that Mr. Emerson was not exposed at the railroad was undercut by an internal company record, obtained by Kazan Law in discovery, admitting that Mr. Emerson was extensively exposed there.

Karen Emerson, Mr. Emerson’s wife, testified about the extensive suffering her husband endured during his seven-month battle with mesothelioma.  He was treated at the Mayo Clinic with both chemotherapy and 30 rounds of radiation.  Post-death tissue analysis revealed extensive asbestos fibers in his lung tissue.

Mesothelioma Lawsuit Verdict

The jury rejected each of Union Pacific’s defenses, found that Mr. Emerson indeed suffered from mesothelioma, and awarded $6,500,000 in pain and suffering damages in the mesothelioma lawsuit.  The court had already determined that Mr. Emerson’s economic damages totaled $451,265.  The total verdict is $6,951,265.00.

The Emerson family was represented by Kazan Law partners Joseph Satterley, Justin Bosl and Denise Abrams, of-counsel Ted Pelletier and associate Ryan Harris.

Experts who testified were pathologists Dr. William Salyer (Oakland) and Dr. Jerrold Abraham (Syracuse), microscopist Dr. Ronald Dodson (Tyler, TX),  pulmonologist Dr. Barry Horn (Oakland), occupational-medicine specialist Dr. David Egilman (Attlesboro, Mass), and treating oncologist Dr. Gregory Yang (Yuma, AZ).

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