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Confidential Resolution Reached for PG&E Laborer

Donald Osterberg v. Allied Packing & Supply, Inc., et al. (2011)
Alameda County Superior Court Case No. RG10515625

Donald Osterberg, age 79, worked from 1949 to May 1950, as a night shift laborer during the construction of the PG&E Steam Plant at Moss Landing, California. Mr. Osterberg swept up dust and debris, often six to 12 inches deep, from asbestos-containing insulation, pipe covering and other asbestos debris left behind from the day’s work at the construction site. Mr. Osterberg put dust and debris from various defendants’ asbestos-containing products into a wheelbarrow and dumped the wheelbarrow from a platform into a truck below, creating plumes of asbestos-containing dust. The dust covered his clothes and body and made it hard to breathe. J.T. Thorpe & Son, Inc., the remaining defendant at trial, had a contract at the PG&E Moss Landing plant to insulate six 100 foot boilers with 170,000 square feet of asbestos block, 71,000 pounds of asbestos cement, and 1000 linear feet of asbestos pipe covering. J.T. Thorpe & Son, Inc. completed the insulation work on three boilers while Mr. Osterberg worked nights in the clean up crew.

Mr. Osterberg was diagnosed with mesothelioma, an asbestos-caused cancer, on February 22, 2010. The Kazan firm filed suit on behalf of Mr. Osterberg in May 2010. The trial commenced on January 18, 2011. Evidence at trial showed that J.T. Thorpe & Son, Inc. did not follow California’s “Dust Fumes and Vapors” Safety Regulations, and knew that its employees’ work of cutting, sanding, mixing and discarding asbestos-containing insulation products released toxic dust into the environment and was inhaled by its workers and others working in the vicinity. The evidence showed that by the 1920’s and 1930’s asbestos dust caused asbestosis and carcinoma of the lung, both progressive and potentially fatal diseases. The evidence showed that by following the state safety regulation to isolate its workers, use wet down procedures, and provide respirators that J. T. Thorpe and Son could have protected all workers present from the toxic dust. The evidence showed that J.T. Thorpe & Son, Inc. did not warn anyone at the Moss Landing site about the dangers of breathing asbestos dust.

After two and a half weeks at trial, after eight witnesses testified but before Mr. Osterberg took the stand, the matter resolved without being presented to the jury. Mr. Osterberg endured eight thoracentesis procedures, and more than 6 rounds of chemotherapy. He is a widower and lives with his son in Fresno, California. He is relieved that the trial is over and that he can concentrate on spending his remaining days with his family in peace.

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