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Plaintiff's mesothelioma diagnosis was questionable: defense

Type:

Verdict-Defendant

State:

California

Venue:

Los Angeles County

Court:

Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Pasadena

Injury Type(s):

other-loss of consortium; cancer-chemotherapy; cancer-mesothelioma

Case Type:

Toxic Torts - Asbestos; Products Liability - Asbestos, Failure to Warn, Manufacturing Defect

Case Name:

Roderick B. Currie and Ing-Marie Sundling Currie v. Borg Warner Corporation by its successor Borg-Warner Morse Tec., Inc.; Calaveras Asbestos Ltd.; CBS Corporation; Cirrus Enterprises LLC; Cytec Industries Inc.; Dana Companies LLC; DAP Products Inc.; Edelbrock Corporation; FMC Corporation; Ford Motor Company; General Electric Company; Henkel Corporation; Henry Company LLC; Holley Performance Products Inc.; International Business Machine aka IBM; Lenze AC Tech Corporation; McCord Corporation; Metropolitan Life Insurance Company; The National Cash Register Company aka NCR Corporation; Pfizer Inc.; Sears Roebuck and Co.; Shell Oil Company; The PEP Boys - Manny, Moe & Jack of California; Union Carbide Corporation; Viacom Inc.; W.W. Henry Company; Wyeth Holdings LLC; and Does 1-450, No. BC625103; JCCP4674

Date:

March 22, 2017

Parties

Plaintiff(s):

Roderick B. Currie (Male, 83 Years), 

Ing-Marie Sundling Currie (Female)

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

Stuart J. Purdy; Simon Greenstone Panatier Bartlett, PC; Long Beach, CA, for Roderick B. Currie, Ing-Marie Sundling Currie ■ Conor R. Nideffer; Simon Greenstone Panatier Bartlett, PC; Long Beach, CA, for Roderick B. Currie, Ing-Marie Sundling Currie

Plaintiff Expert(s):

David Fractor; Ph.D.; Lost Earnings (Economics); Pasadena, CA called by: Stuart J. Purdy, Conor R. Nideffer ■ Edwin Holstein; M.D.; Occupational Medicine; Boston, MA called by: Stuart J. Purdy, Conor R. Nideffer ■ Arnold Brody; M.D.; Cell Biology; New Orleans, LA called by: Stuart J. Purdy, Conor R. Nideffer ■ Richard Kradin; M.D.; Pulmonology; Boston, MA called by: Stuart J. Purdy, Conor R. Nideffer

Defendant(s):

Pfizer Inc., 

Viacom Inc., 

CBS Corporation, 

FMC Corporation, 

DAP Products Inc., 

Henry Company LLC, 

Shell Oil Company, 

Dana Companies LLC, 

Ford Motor Company, 

Henkel Corporation, 

McCord Corporation, 

W.W. Henry Company, 

Wyeth Holdings LLC, 

Cytec Industries Inc., 

Edelbrock Corporation, 

Sears Roebuck and Co., 

Cirrus Enterprises LLC, 

Borg Warner Corporation, 

Calaveras Asbestos Ltd., 

General Electric Company, 

Lenze AC Tech Corporation, 

Union Carbide Corporation, 

International Business Machine, 

Holley Performance Products Inc., 

The National Cash Register Company, 

Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, 

The PEP Boys - Manny, Moe & Jack of California

Defense Attorney(s):

Steven D. Smelser; Yukevich | Cavanaugh; Los Angeles, CA, for Ford Motor Company ■ Jeremy D. Huie; Bassi Edlin Huie & Blum LLP; San Francisco, CA, for Henry Company LLC ■ Jonathan E. Meislin; Bassi Edlin Huie & Blum LLP; San Francisco, CA, for Henry Company LLC ■ Jacquelyn J. Sugapong; Yukevich | Cavanaugh; Los Angeles, CA, for Ford Motor Company ■ Dan Larsen; Dorsey & Whitney LLP; Salt Lake City, UT, for Ford Motor Company ■ None reported; ; San Francisco, CA, for Pfizer Inc., Viacom Inc., CBS Corporation, FMC Corporation, DAP Products Inc., Shell Oil Company, Dana Companies LLC, Henkel Corporation, McCord Corporation, W.W. Henry Company, Wyeth Holdings LLC, Cytec Industries Inc., Edelbrock Corporation, Sears Roebuck and Co., Cirrus Enterprises LLC, Borg Warner Corporation, Calaveras Asbestos Ltd., General Electric Company, Lenze AC Tech Corporation, Union Carbide Corporation, International Business Machine, Holley Performance Products Inc., The National Cash Register Company, Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, The PEP Boys - Manny, Moe & Jack of California

Defendant Expert(s):

Kyle Dotson; Industrial Hygiene; Los Altos, CA called by: Jeremy D. Huie, Jonathan E. Meislin ■ Andrew Churg; Pathology; Vancouver, British Columbia, called by: Steven D. Smelser, Jacquelyn J. Sugapong, Dan Larsen ■ Dennis Paustenbach; Industrial Hygiene; San Francisco, CA called by: Steven D. Smelser, Jacquelyn J. Sugapong, Dan Larsen ■ Fionna Mowat; Environmental Assessments; Menlo Park, CA called by: Jeremy D. Huie, Jonathan E. Meislin ■ Dominik Alexander; Epidemiology (Cancer); Birmingham, AL called by: Steven D. Smelser, Jacquelyn J. Sugapong, Dan Larsen

Facts:

In May 2016, plaintiff Roderick Currie, 83, a retired computer programmer, was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma, which is an aggressive, incurable cancer that develops on the lining of the lungs and that often stems from exposure to asbestos. When Currie was 18, between 1951 and 1952, he worked part-time, one to two days per week, at a Shell gas station in Scarsdale, N.Y., pumping gas after school during his junior and senior years in high school. He also worked at an engine rebuild shop in Washington, D.C. one summer in 1952, during which he was allegedly exposed to gaskets. In addition, Currie performed brake jobs on his personal vehicles and repaired roofs on his personal residences, as well as on several rental properties during the early 1980s through the 2000s, using Henry Co. brand roof cement. Currie was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma in May 2016. He alleged that his condition was caused by his exposure to chrysotile asbestos. Currie sued Borg Warner Corp. (by its successor, Borg-Warner Morse Tec. Inc.), Calaveras Asbestos Ltd., Ford Motor Co., Henry Co., LLC, and various other companies that were believed to have manufactured, distributed, and/or worked with asbestos-containing products to which Currie was allegedly exposed. Currie's complaint was coordinated with hundreds of other cases that were pending in different counties that shared common questions of fact or law regarding direct and indirect exposure, and involved many of the same defendants. The cases were joined in one court, the Los Angeles County Superior Court. Many of those cases were put on hold while awaiting a decision regarding an appellate case involving indirect exposure. Borg-Warner and several other defendants were dismissed from or settled out of Currie's action, and Calaveras Asbestos was let out of Currie's case after successfully moving for summary judgment. Thus, Currie's complaint ultimately proceeded to trial against only Ford Motor and Henry Co. Plaintiff's counsel contended that Currie sustained chrysotile exposure from products manufactured by Ford Motor and Henry Co. Counsel also contended that Currie was exposed to asbestos dust during his work with, and being around, computers, other non-Ford Motor vehicles and parts, and construction and/or home-remodel projects. Plaintiff's counsel argued that Ford Motor and Henry Co. failed to warn Currie of the potential dangers of their products. However, there was no fiber digestion analysis done on Currie, as he is still alive. The plaintiff's experts opined that Currie's exposure to Ford Motor and Henry Co. products substantially increased Currie's risk of getting mesothelioma. Defense counsel for Ford Motor argued that Currie's memory of work with and around Ford Motor's friction parts over the past six decades was speculative and that Currie's mesothelioma diagnosis was questionable. Ford Motor's industrial hygiene and epidemiology experts testified that even if Currie did have mesothelioma, it could not have been caused by negligible exposure to asbestos from automotive friction products. The experts presented evidence -- including 20 epidemiology studies conducted over the last 30 years and funded by various medical and scientific organizations, universities and governments around the world -- that showed that work with automotive friction products do not increase one's risk of developing mesothelioma. Defense counsel for Henry Co. contended that there was ambiguity as to whether Currie used a type of Henry Co. roofing cement that contained asbestos or a type of roofing cement that did not. Counsel argued that even if Currie had used a type of Henry Co. roofing cement that contained asbestos, the level of fiber release was so trivial that it was no greater than the ambient air in Los Angeles.

Injury:

Currie was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma in May 2016. He subsequently underwent six rounds of chemotherapy in June 2016 and July 2016. He then underwent two separate PET scans, which did not show any sign of a malignancy. Thus, Currie sought recovery for his medical expenses and pain and suffering. His wife, Ing-Marie Currie, sought recovery for her loss of consortium. In addition, the Curries both sought recovery for the loss of Mr. Currie's Social Security earnings. Defense counsel argued that the evidence of Mr. Currie's alleged mesothelioma diagnosis was questionable. Ford Motor's counsel contended that Currie's most recent PET scans indicated no evidence of malignancy and noted that medical experts on both sides testified that even after chemotherapy, a mesothelioma tumor never diminishes completely, which it seemed to do, per Currie's PET scans.

Result:

The jury rendered a defense verdict. It found that neither Ford Motor nor Henry Co. was negligent, that neither company failed to warn Currie, and that neither company's products were defective.

Trial Information:

Judge:

C. Edward Simpson

Trial Length:

3  weeks

Trial Deliberations:

1  days

Jury Vote:

12-0 as to finding Ford Motor not negligent; 9-3 as to finding Henry Co. not negligent

Jury Composition:

6 male/ 6 female

Editor's Comment:

This report is based on information that was provided by defense counsel for Ford Motor Co. and Henry Co., LLC. Plaintiffs' counsel did not respond to the reporter's phone calls and counsel for the remaining defendants were not asked to contribute.