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Jury Assesses a $5.2 Million Dollar Verdict for a Former Lather/Drywaller With Mesothelioma

A San Francisco Jury awarded a combined $5,236,000 to a 79 year-old former drywall and plaster worker suffering from mesothelioma, and for his wife for her loss of consortium case. The Plaintiffs in the case were Don Felker and his wife Sharon Felker. The Defendants in the case were Hanson Permanente Cement, Inc., a manufacturer and supplier of asbestos-containing cement, and Kaiser Gypsum Co., a company which manufactured and distributed asbestos-containing drywall materials. The Jury awarded Mr. Felker $236,000 for his economic damages which included his past and future medical bills, loss of household services and loss of future income, and $3,500,000 in non-economic damages. The Jury also awarded Mrs. Felker $1,500,000 for her loss of consortium damages.

At trial, the Felkers were represented by William Levin and Timothy Pearce now of Levin Simes, LLP.

Exposure To Asbestos-Containing Construction Products

Mr. Felker worked as an Apprentice and then later as a Journeyman Plasterer for Bay Area based construction companies during the 1960s. As a plasterer, Mr. Felker testified that he mixed bags of asbestos-containing Hanson Permanente Cement which were used to apply as a stucco material during the construction and remodel of homes in various Bay Area counties. At trial, Mr. Felker testified that he poured bags of the dry asbestos-containing Hanson Permanente plaster into hoppers, which were then mixed with water and sand to be applied to the exterior of homes. Mr. Felker described this as a dusty process. Investigation in the case revealed that one of Mr. Felker’s employers, Wesley Uffelman Construction, had actually been used by Hanson Permanente in advertisements showcasing local businesses who used their products.

After re-locating to The Dalles, OR in the late 1960s, Mr. Felker began working as a painter and drywaller. His work required him to mix, apply and sand joint compound materials which were applied to the seams of drywall. Mr. Felker testified that one of the brands of joint compound he used while doing this job was manufactured by Defendant Kaiser Gypsum. Mr. Felker testified that the mixing, and sanding of the Kaiser Gypsum joint compound was a very dusty process.

Defendants in the case contended that their asbestos-containing products did not cause Mr. Felker’s mesothelioma and that his mesothelioma was caused solely by his exposure to insulation products in the 1950s.

Verdict

On June 1, 2007, the jury returned its verdict finding Defendants liable on theories of negligence and products liability. The jury found Defendant Hanson Permanente Cement, Inc. to be 35% responsible, and Defendant Kaiser Gypsum to be 3% responsible in causing Mr. Felker’s mesothelioma. Ultimately, the net verdict as entered by The Hon. Kevin M. McCarthy, of the San Francisco Superior Court, was $2,136,000, plus costs against these two defendants.