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$10,000,000 Mesothelioma Verdict for Former Pipe Installer Affirmed on Appeal

The California Court of Appeal has affirmed the verdict of an Oakland, California jury who returned a mesothelioma verdict that found CertainTeed Corporation substantially responsible for pipe installer Michael Burch developing mesothelioma. The jury found pipe manufacturer CertainTeed Corporation liable for negligence, strict product liability, failure to warn, and fraud by intentional concealment of the dangerous asbestos exposure caused during installation of its asbestos-cement pipe. (Michael and Cindy Burch v. CertainTeed Corporation, Case No. RG16819332, Alameda County Superior Court; Nos. A151633, A152252, A153624, First District Court of Appeal, Division Four)

Pipe installer Michael Burch worked throughout the 1970s for several plumbing contractors, installing asbestos-cement pipe on various jobs including large public-works projects for California cities. He installed mostly CertainTeed Corporation brand asbestos-cement pipe, made of 14% to 15% asbestos. Witness testimony and corporate documents showed that CertainTeed Corporation knew that the asbestos was released from its asbestos-cement pipe in normal use and installation and that exposure to any amount of that asbestos posed a significant hazard of causing disease including the fatal asbestos cancer mesothelioma. The evidence showed also that CertainTeed Corporation concealed this asbestos hazard from all product users like Michael Burch, instead falsely telling users that CertainTeed Corporation’s asbestos-cement pipe was “non-harmful.” Michael Burch worked for years with CertainTeed Corporation’s asbestos-cement pipe without taking adequate precautions against exposure. He was diagnosed with asbestos-caused mesothelioma and brought suit against CertainTeed Corporation.

Mesothelioma Verdict Amount

The jury unanimously awarded over $10 million, including $776,201.00 in economic damages and $9.25 million in non-economic damages, in favor of Michael Burch and his wife Cindy, represented by mesothelioma attorneys at Kazan Law. The jury found that CertainTeed Corporation had committed not only negligence and product liability and failure to warn but also the intentional tort of fraudulent concealment of the hazards of CertainTeed Corporation’s asbestos-cement pipe.

Although CertainTeed Corporation had committed intentional fraudulent concealment of the hazards of its asbestos-cement pipe, the Oakland trial court reduced CertainTeed Corporation’s liability by 38% reflecting the fault of other entities that did not commit intentional fraud.

Full Mesothelioma Verdict Amount Affirmed on Appeal

The California Court of Appeal, First District, Division Four, affirmed the Oakland jury’s verdict in full, holding that CertainTeed Corporation is responsible to pay Michael and Cindy Burch the full amount of the $10 million verdict, plus 10% interest that has accrued since the Oakland jury’s unanimous verdict. The Court of Appeal rejected all of CertainTeed Corporation’s asserted arguments for reversing or reducing the jury’s unanimous verdict.

Michael and Cindy Burch were represented at trial by Kazan Law partners Justin Bosl and Ted Pelletier and associate Arcelia Hurtado, and on appeal by Kazan Law partner Ted Pelletier.

After the Court of Appeal issued its opinion, Mr. Pelletier stated: “The jury’s unanimous verdict will now be honored. CertainTeed Corporation knew that its asbestos-cement pipe was a hazardous caused of the asbestos cancer mesothelioma but falsely told pipe users that it was ‘non-harmful’ to keep selling its dangerous product. As a result, Michael Burch and countless others like him breathed in large quantities of asbestos. The Oakland jury and the California Court of Appeal have told CertainTeed Corporation that its intentional fraudulent concealment of the hazards of its asbestos-cement pipe is unacceptable.”

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