SACRAMENTO, Calif. –– A California jury has reached a defense verdict for Honeywell International (NYSE:HON), Fraser-Edwards and Maremont, rejecting claims involving alleged exposure on U.S. Navy ships and while completing automobile repairs.
The California Superior Court for Sacramento County jury reached its verdict on Feb. 21. Judge David DeAlba presided over the seven-week trial, which ended after one-and-a-half days of jury deliberations.
The plaintiffs contended in their lawsuit that Kurt Walter was exposed to asbestos-containing products while serving in theU.S. Navy and, later, while working in auto repair departments of J.C. Penny and CalTrans.
The suit was filed by Kurt Walter and his wife, Shirley Walter. The plaintiffs requested that the jury award more than $10 million.
The plaintiffs named Fraser-Edwards Co. for its role in manufacturing, removing and replacing magnesite flooring on the ship where Walter was stationed; Maremont Corp., for manufacturing automotive brake shoes and lining material that allegedly contained asbestos; and Honeywell International Inc., also for its role in the manufacture of brake shoes and linings.
During trial, the plaintiffs maintained that every exposure to asbestos increases the chance of developing mesothelioma.
Sources told HarrisMartin that the case was originally filed in Alameda County, but was moved to Sacramento County after the defendants filed a motion seeking a transfer.
While trial was ongoing, the court granted Fraser-Edwards’ motion for nonsuit with regards to contractor/premises liability, intentional tort, and punitive damages claims. Similar motions made by Maremont and Honeywell were denied, sources said.
All the defendants argued during trial that, if Walters was exposed to their products, the exposure could not have caused him to develop mesothelioma since the products in question contained chrysotile asbestos. Instead, the defendants argued, Walters’ illness was caused by exposure to amosite asbestos, which was contained in thermal insulation on the U.S. Naval ships on which Walters worked.
Fraser-Edwards specifically argued during trial that the flooring product was actually a non-asbestos product named terrazzo.The defendant additionally challenged Walter’s product identification and contended that, even if the plaintiff’s testimony was credible, any exposure to asbestos in Fraser-Edwards’ products was minimal.
Maremont also contested product identification at trial, arguing that Walters was never exposed to its products. Honeywell told the jury that Walter was overstating his exposure to its products.
The jury found 12-0 that Fraser-Edwards’ products were not the cause of Walter’s asbestos exposure. Despite finding that Walters was exposed to asbestos-containing products manufactured by Maremont and Honeywell, the jury determined by a vote of 9 to 3 that the plaintiffs had failed to prove their negligence and strict product liability claims as to these defendants.
Testifying on behalf of the plaintiffs were Dr. Murray Finkelstein, epidemiologist; William Ewing, industrial hygiene; Barry Horn, medical causation; and Robert Johnson, forensic economist.
Testifying on behalf of the defendants were Dr. Sheldon Rabinovitz, industrial hygienist; Dr. Allen Gibbs, pathologist; Dr. Leroy “Skip” Fletcher, automotive braking systems; Patricia Hall, industrial hygienist; Dr. David Garabrant, epidemiologist; and Dr. James Crapo, epidemiologist/medical causation.
Counsel for the plaintiffs were Anthony Vieira and Campbell Filmer of the Law Offices of Anthony Vieira in Westlake Village, Calif.
Fraser-Edwards was represented by Guy Stilson and Karen Moore of Low, Ball & Lynch in San Francisco.
Counsel for Maremont Corp. were Frank Berfield and Paul Bird of McKenna, Long & Aldridge in San Francisco.
Honeywell was represented by Joseph Pevsner of Thompson & Knight in Dallas; and Colleen Baime of McDermott Will & Emery in Chicago.
Walter, et al. v. A.W. Chesterton Co., et al., No. 34-2012-00124037 (Calif. Super. Ct., Sacramento Cty.).
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