Product Liability Law Update - Jim Reynolds Obtains Dismissal of Mesothelioma Asbestos Claim for Client

James J. Reynolds, Esq.        1 August 2018

We are pleased that partner Jim Reynolds obtained a dismissal before trial on behalf of a client sued for negligence and product liability.  Our firm represented a ship repair company that performed boiler room work on U.S. Navy ships.  An employee for NASSCO and his wife sued our client for negligence, strict liability, misrepresentation, fraud, contractor liability and loss of consortium, alleging he had contracted mesothelioma from exposure to asbestos dust he inhaled created by our client during the 1980s and 1990s.

The Plaintiffs were represented by a law firm that exclusively represents mesothelioma victims. Plaintiffs had assembled a team of more than 10 experts in the field of hazardous substances, work place practices and medical personal who testified in deposition that our client was responsible for the Plaintiff’s mesothelioma.

Our client unfortunately did not have any insurance covering asbestos claims and was forced to present a defense without the benefit of its own expert witnesses.

Mesothelioma jury verdicts range from over a million dollars to more than $30 million. If our client lost the case it would have been forced into bankruptcy. Prior to trial, the Plaintiffs demanded a settlement of $600,000 based on alleged economic damages of $1.1 million and noneconomic damages of $4 million.

Partner Jim Reynolds, who has done extensive defense work in the area of product liability, torts and negligence cases, filed a comprehensive motion for summary judgment the week before the start of trial despite the absence of his own expert testimony. He was able to demonstrate that Plaintiffs failed to produce sufficient evidence to prove direct exposure to asbestos caused by our client. The Trial Court’s tentative ruling was to grant limited summary judgment concluding that issues of fact remained on the Plaintiffs’ claims of statutory violations, meaning our client would be forced to trial the following week.

During oral argument on the summary judgment motion, Jim Reynolds demonstrated to the Trial Court that the Plaintiffs’ lawyers had misled the Court by arguing our client violated the Labor Code and the Health and Safety Code. In fact, section 6304.5 of the Labor Code (known as CAL-OSHA) was amended in 2001 and therefore did not apply to injuries that occurred prior to the amendment (the asbestos exposure occurred prior to 2001) and the Health and Safety Code violation (EPA air pollution quality control) was applicable only to the San Francisco Bay area (where the trial was to take place) and since the injury occurred on the San Diego waterfront the law wasn’t applicable to the Plaintiffs’ claims.

Based on the oral argument, the Trial Court reversed its tentative ruling and granted complete summary judgment and dismissed our client from the case allowing the client to continue its work for the US Navy and providing employment to over 100 local residents.

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