Alameda County
Bar Association

Toxic Torts 

By Justin Bosl, of Kazan, McClain, Satterley & Greenwood

Martin and Rose-Marie Grigg
Martin and Rose-Marie Grigg

I’m often asked by other lawyers what I practice. When I respond that I mostly handle abestos cases, I often hear “People still file those?” Here in Alameda County, asbestos litigation has been going strong for over 35 years.

Judge Jo-Lynne Q. Lee presides over Alameda County’s asbestos personal injury docket for all pre-trial matters and many trials. Alameda County is one of four counties in California to have a dedicated asbestos court. Most plaintiffs with asbestos-caused disease are terminally ill. As a result, many asbestos plaintiffs receive preferential trial dates within 120 days under C.C.P. § 36. Given the incredibly compressed time frame of these complex cases, having one designated judge for all pre-trial matters is extremely helpful and efficient.

A notable verdict in the last year was the case of Rose-Marie and Martin Grigg, tried in front of Judge Ioana Petrou by Joseph Satterley, Andrea Huston and Ryan Harris from Kazan, McClain, Satterley & Greenwood. Mrs. Grigg, now 82, was exposed to asbestos in the course of shaking out and washing her husband’s work clothing. Mrs. Grigg’s then husband was an insulator for a company that used Owens-Illinois, Inc. Kaylo brand insulation products from 1950-1958.

Evidence introduced during trial showed that Owens-Illinois knew that asbestos exposure could cause death as early as the 1930s and that test results on Kaylo showed that exposure to the asbestos in the product could cause fatal disease. Owens-Illinois nonetheless advertised Kaylo as “non-toxic” and did not state that the product contained asbestos. Kaylo was packaged in boxes without warning about the health hazards associated with asbestos exposure.

The jury found Owens-Illinois liable under multiple causes of action. Owens-Illinois argued that it had no duty to Mrs. Grigg as a bystander under the recent Campbell v. Ford decision. 206 Cal.App.4th 15 (2012).

The jury awarded Mrs. Grigg $12,000,000 in damages for her pain and suffering, Mr. Grigg $4,000,000 in damages for his loss of consortium, and $342,500 in economic damages. The jury also levied an $11,000,000 punitive damages verdict against Owens-Illinois.

Asbestos cases continue to be at the forefront of the law in California in issues of product liability, evidence, and punitive damages.

Justin Bosl is a partner at Kazan, McClain, Satterley & Greenwood in Oakland, California. He handles mesothelioma and other toxic tort cases. This article was originally published in the Winter Edition of the ACBA Trial Practice Section Newsletter.