Hawkins Parnell Thackston & Young LLP Obtains a Unanimous Defense Verdict

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Unanimous Defense Verdict in U.S. District Court (Los Angeles) for John Crane Inc.

Robert E. Thackston

The jury did a good job of understanding the reality of amosite pipe insulation exposures in a shipyard and that gaskets and packing did not contribute to his disease.

On November 17, 2014, HPTY secured a unanimous defense verdict in the United States District Court for the Central District of California (Los Angeles) for John Crane Inc. (Susan Hill, Individually and as Personal Representative of The Estate of Charles Tyrone Hill v. Air & Liquid Systems, et al., CV-12-8713-DSF (Ex)). The decedent, Charles Tyrone Hill, worked as a pipefitter at three San Diego-based shipyards from 1960 to 1975. Mr. Hill testified that John Crane Inc. gaskets were the primary products he used throughout this time.

The plaintiffs sued over 45 defendants for decedent’s asbestos-related mesothelioma, but only John Crane Inc. remained at the time of verdict. Robert E. Thackston and Paula D. Pendley tried the case for HPTY’s client. They were assisted by Julia A. Gowin and Andrew S. Russell.

Stuart Purdy and Tyson Gamble of Simon Greenstone Panatier & Bartlett, PC tried the case for plaintiffs. Although they described it as the best case Simon Greenstone has ever had against John Crane Inc., HPTY’s defense team refused to lose − chipping away at plaintiffs’ case with every motion, witness, and argument.

The Honorable Dale S. Fischer presided over the seven-day trial. She precluded plaintiffs’ experts from testifying that “there is no safe dose of asbestos” and “each and every exposure above background” substantially contributed to decedent’s risk of disease. She also placed significant time limits on each side to present their case.

Plaintiffs’ experts were Arnold Brody, Eugene Mark, James Millette, and Carl Brodkin. John Crane Inc. called James Crapo, John Henshaw, and a corporate representative. At the end of closing argument, plaintiffs’ counsel urged the jury to award $13 million in compensatory damages to Mr. Hill's wife, Susan Hill. Plaintiffs also sought punitive damages.

After eight hours of deliberation, the jury determined that John Crane Inc. was not negligent; its products did not fail to perform as safely as an ordinary consumer would have expected; the risks of its products’ design did not outweigh the benefits; and that the potential risks did not present a substantial danger to users. The seven-person jury then returned a unanimous defense verdict for HPTY’s client.

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Carol Crocker
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