Kazan Law Wins $6,951,000 Mesothelioma Verdict Against Union Pacific

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After claiming immunity from the mesothelioma lawsuit, and then subsequently arguing that the plaintiff died from lung cancer caused by cigarette smoking, Union Pacific was found responsible for the suffering and wrongful death of one of its former boilermakers, according to court documents.

mesothelioma law firm

Kazan Law partner Joseph Satterley

On November 18, 2015, after a six-week trial, an Alameda County jury found that Union Pacific Railroad Company is responsible for a $6,951,000 verdict for the suffering and wrongful death of Jeffrey Emerson, who worked as a boilermaker at the Southern Pacific Railroad from 1971 to 1995. The company merged with Union Pacific in 1997. (Emerson v. Union Pacific Railroad Co., Alameda County Superior Court, Case No. RG-13698637)

According to court documents, Mr. Emerson was regularly exposed to asbestos at Southern Pacific’s Sacramento Locomotive Shops, both directly in his job and as a bystander to the work of other craftsmen. In July 2013, he was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, a terminal cancer. Mr. Emerson was under medical care and treatment for the next seven months prior to his death on January 24, 2014, just 10 days after he completed his deposition.

Discovery in the mesothelioma case, according to court documents, revealed that for more than 20 years Southern Pacific had used many different types of asbestos products, including in its diesel locomotives and in piping around its facilities. According to court documents, Southern Pacific did not comply with the regulatory requirements regarding asbestos for at least 15 years. Instead it allegedly allowed workers to be exposed to asbestos without proper protection throughout the 1970s and much of the 1980s. Court documents stated that it wasn’t until the mid to late 1980s that Southern Pacific began to implement some asbestos safety procedures.

According to court documents, prior to trial, Union Pacific claimed immunity from the mesothelioma lawsuit based on a prior release of claims for an unrelated back injury. The trial court denied this defense, ruling that Mr. Emerson’s release of back-injury claims cannot be construed as waiving future claims for asbestos-disease injuries. The case proceeded on the merits under the Federal Employers Liability Act, which governs claims for railroad-workplace injuries.

At trial, according to court documents, Union Pacific argued that Mr. Emerson died not from asbestos-caused mesothelioma but from lung cancer caused by cigarette smoking (which Mr. Emerson quit in the early 1980s). Alternatively, Union Pacific argued that, if Mr. Emerson did have mesothelioma, it was caused not by asbestos exposure at Southern Pacific but by earlier exposures in the Navy. According to court documents, Union Pacific’s argument that Mr. Emerson was not exposed at the railroad was undercut by an internal company record, obtained by Kazan Law in discovery, admitting that Mr. Emerson was extensively exposed there.

Court documents reported that Karen Emerson, Mr. Emerson’s wife, testified about the extensive suffering her husband endured during his battle with mesothelioma. He was treated at the Mayo Clinic with both chemotherapy and 30 rounds of radiation. Post-death tissue analysis revealed extensive asbestos fibers in his lung tissue.

According to court documents, the jury rejected each of Union Pacific’s defenses, found that Mr. Emerson indeed suffered from mesothelioma, and awarded $6,500,000 in pain and suffering damages in the mesothelioma lawsuit. The court had already determined that Mr. Emerson’s economic damages totaled $451,265. The total verdict is $6,951,265.00.

The Emerson family was represented by Kazan Law partners Joseph Satterley, Justin Bosl and Denise Abrams, of-counsel Ted Pelletie r and associate Ryan Harris.

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Ted Pelletier
Kazan Law
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