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$20,500,000 Verdict for Pipe Manufacturing Plant Worker

An Alameda County jury found asbestos-cement pipe manufacturer J-M A/C Pipe Co. negligent and its actions malicious. (William Hardcastle and Vonda Hardcastle v. J-M A/C Pipe Corporation, Alameda County Superior Court No. 830058-2)

On April 12, 2001, Bill and Vonda Hardcastle were awarded $20,500,000 by an Alameda County jury in California. Bill Hardcastle contracted a rare cancer which he alleged was caused by the asbestos released at his workplace by the manufacture of asbestos-cement pipe. The defendant was J-M A/C Pipe Co. of Stockton, California.

Bill Hardcastle worked from 1959 until his cancer diagnosis, at a pipe manufacturing plant in Stockton, California. His original employer was Johns-Manville Corporation. From 1959-1974 Bill Hardcastle was involved in the production of asbestos-containing pipe which at the time was primarily used for water transmission. In 1974, out of concern for his health, Bill Hardcastle transferred to the plastic pipe operations, with only partial walls separating the plastic pipe manufacturing operation from the asbestos cement pipe production in the rest of the facility.

Experts testified at trial that during the 1980’s J-M A/C Pipe knew that there was no safe level of asbestos exposure and that even if they hadn’t cheated on air quality testing with advance clean-up operations, their own standards were too lenient to protect workers’ health.

The jury was unanimous in finding J-M A/C Pipe negligent and its actions malicious. They awarded Bill and Vonda Hardcastle $10,000,000 each as compensatory damages. After hearing financial information about the defendants net worth of $1.1 million the jury also awarded $500,000 in punitive damages.

Kazan Law principals Dianna Lyons and Frank Fernandez successfully tried the case against J-M A/C Pipe Corporation. The defendant claimed it had never been sued in an asbestos case before, but apparently forgot that Kazan Law sued the company as successor to the old Johns-Manville Corporation in 1983 after it bought and continued to operate Johns Manville’s asbestos cement pipe operation.

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