DEFENSE VERDICT IN WRONGFUL DEATH MESOTHELIOMA TRIAL, TACOMA, WASHINGTON

DEFENSE VERDICT IN WRONGFUL DEATH MESOTHELIOMA TRIAL, TACOMA, WASHINGTON

Demler Armstrong & Rowland is pleased to announce that its San Francisco Managing Partner, John R. Brydon, was lead trial counsel for Pneumo Abex, LLC, a former manufacturer of asbestos containing brake linings, and obtained a 12-0 defense verdict in a disputed mesothelioma wrongful death case in Pierce County Superior Court, Tacoma, Washington.  Abex was the last remaining defendant in a case brought by the heirs of 88-year-old Donald Winslow who claimed exposure to Abex brake linings from the blow out of old brake drums while he was the owner and occasional mechanic at an Atlantic Richfield gas station in Port Orchard, Washington from 1967-1980. Mr. Winslow also spent over a dozen years as a sheet metal worker at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington in the 1950 and early 1960s. The case was tried under the former Washington products liability common law rules, which imposes joint & several liability for full damages against any remaining defendant less any post-judgment offsets from prior settlements.  Plaintiffs asked the jury to award $7 million and after one juror was discharged for work related reasons during the initial deliberations, the jury restarted deliberations with the alternate and returned a 12-0 defense verdict in under 2 hours.

Mr. Winslow had been initially diagnosed with “probable” pleural mesothelioma by his treating physicians, but no biopsy of the tumor was done while he was alive.  Mr. Winslow’s son commissioned an autopsy and had the pathology slides reviewed by pathologist/pulmonologist Richard Kradin, a frequently used plaintiff expert who agreed with the diagnosis but did not review the autopsy photos or conduct his own testing. Dr. Kradin concluded that the tumor was a sarcomatoid mesothelioma.

Pathology material was obtained by the defense and sent to Lucien Chirieac, MD, a pathologist who has written extensively on guidelines for this difficult to diagnose disease and after conducting his own testing of the tumor and viewing hundreds of photos taken at autopsy testified that this was not a mesothelioma.  It did not present like mesothelioma, did not behave like a mesothelioma in the way it metastasized and tested negative for mesothelioma.  He concluded that the tumor was a sarcoma, which all the experts agreed is a cancer that is not caused by exposure to asbestos.

The defense also challenged the product identification and exposure claims in the case and argued if there was any release of asbestos during blow out of spent linings that may have been supplied by Abex, it was de minimis and in the unlikely event that this was mesothelioma, the claimed exposures were insignificant and would not be a legal cause of the disease.

The case was tried in person in a socially distanced facility with a live Zoom public feed.  All participants, including the jurors, were required to wear masks except when speaking, examining, or testifying, Plaintiffs’ experts all testified via Zoom and all the defense witnesses were presented live.

TRIAL LENGTH:               

15 Court Days  | Verdict July 6, 2021

PLAINTIFFS COUNSEL:   

Craig Sims, Esq. | Schroeder, Goldmark Bender, Seattle WA

Kaitlin Wright, Esq.  | Schroeder, Goldmark Bender, Seattle WA

DEFENSE COUNSEL:      

John R. Brydon, Esq. | Demler, Armstrong & Rowland LLP, San Francisco, CA

Johan D. Flynn, Esq. | Wheeler Trigg O’Donnell LLP, Denver, CO

Michael E. Ricketts, Esq. | Gordon Thomas Honeywell LLP Seattle, WA

JUDGE:                            

Hon. Michael E. Schwartz, Pierce County Superior Court, State of Washington

CASE:                                

Donald Gail Winslow v. Pneumo Abex. LLC, Case No. 20-2-05066-6        

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