Los Angelos Asbestos Cancer Lawsuit Results in $208M Jury Award

A jury has awarded $208.8 million to a California woman who allegedly contracted asbestos cancer from washing her husband’s clothes, in what is reported to be the largest mesothelioma lawsuit award in the state’s history. 

The decision was handed down late last week by a Central District Los Angeles Superior Court jury, which awarded Rhoda Evans $8.8 million in compensatory damages and hit the defendants, CertainTeed and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, with an additional $200 million in punitive damages. Evans’ asbestos cancer lawsuit claims that she contracted mesothelioma due to exposure to asbestos while washing her husband’s work clothes.

Her husband, Bobby Evans, worked for the city for 24 years, during which time one of his jobs was cutting asbestos cement water pipes manufactured by CertainTeed with an abrasive power saw. Rhoda Evans’ lawsuit claims that asbestos dust and fibers on his clothing caused her to develop the fatal cancer years later.

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The jury determined that CertainTeed knew asbestos caused cancer as early as the 1960s, but did not place a asbestos cancer warnings on its products until 1985. The jury ruled that CertainTeed carried 70% of the liability in the lawsuit, and the L.A. Department of Water and Power was responsible for 30%.

CertainTeed officials say they will fight the verdict and the award, which they allege is unconstitutionally high.

Mesothelioma is a rare and fatal form of cancer from asbestos that is found in the lining of the chest and lungs. The only known cause of mesothelioma is asbestos exposure, and it is often not diagnosed until decades after exposure. As a result of the long latency period, the cancer is very advanced when it is diagnosed and life expectancy with the disease is limited.

Asbestos was widely used in a variety of manufacturing and construction applications throughout the last century, particularly shipbuilding, with use peaking in 1973. Most uses of asbestos were banned in the mid-1980s. Despite the ban, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that the number of mesothelioma deaths continues to rise each year due to the latency period, with the number expected to peak in 2010.

Asbestos mesothelioma lawsuits are the longest running mass tort in U.S. history, with the first asbestos exposure case filed in 1929. Over 600,000 people have filed lawsuits against 6,000 defendants after being diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestosis or other asbestos-related diseases.

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