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Lawyers » Resources » Karen Peterson and Jeffrey Peterson v. Hill Brothers Chemical Company (2002) Alameda County Superior

Karen Peterson and Jeffrey Peterson v. Hill Brothers Chemical Company (2002) Alameda County Superior

14th November 2008
Written By: Kazan Law

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On June 4, 2002, an Alameda County Superior Court jury returned a verdict in excess of $20 million for Karen and Jeffrey Peterson. Total responsibility (100%) for plaintiff's mesothelioma cancer was assessed against Hill Brothers Chemical Company, a southern California chemical company that is based in Orange, California. The jury also found that defendant Hill Brothers Chemical's conduct was undertaken with malice, oppression or fraud, requiring an additional phase of the trial to determine an amount of punitive damages. The defendant avoided this phase by making an undisclosed settlement award.

Karen Peterson, age 42, was exposed to asbestos in her own family home from products manufactured by defendant Hill Brothers Chemical Company from the time of her birth until she left home at age 18 to attend college. The asbestos-containing cementitious magnesite floor which exposed plaintiff to asbestos is still in place in tens of thousands of homes today. Trial evidence included an estimate of 4 million square feet of the flooring still in place in family homes in Los Angeles and elsewhere in California. Although Hill Brothers Chemical Company's products sold today do not contain asbestos, the company makes an exclusive line of accessory products including sealers and repair products that are specifically marketed to be used on existing asbestos-containing magnesite floors installed from the 1920s through 1977. Plaintiffs and their attorneys consider both the current existence of these floors and the Hill Brothers Chemical's recommended restoration practice for these asbestos-containing floors (including sanding and wire brushing) to be a significant public health issue. If left unaddressed, in place magnesite flooring and refurbishing practices have the potential to expose an infinite number of persons to asbestos fibers now and put people at increased risk for serious and potentially fatal asbestos cancers many decades into the future.

Plaintiffs were represented at trial by Simona A. Farrise and Andrea C. Huston of the Oakland, California law firm of Kazan, McClain, Abrams, Fernandez, Lyons & Farrise who specialize in toxic torts including asbestos caused mesothelioma cancers.

Don Lee Henderson & Marlene Henderson v. Eternit, Inc. (2001) Alameda County Superior Court 843027-6 An Alameda County jury entered an $11,500,000 verdict for a Martinez, California former construction project estimator based on his career exposure to asbestos-containing products, particularly, cement-asbestos board. Eternit, Inc., the only remaining defendant at trial, was apportioned roughly $2,500,000 in liability based on the design defect, failure to warn and negligent supply of their enameled cement asbestos board, Glasweld and Flexweld.

Don Lee Henderson, the primary plaintiff, worked the majority of his career following his U.S. Navy service as an construction project estimator in both Northern and Southern California. The nature of his work as a project estimator required him to visit numerous construction sites where asbestos-containing materials were being fabricated and installed. In addition, he was continuously exposed to asbestos dust while on his own employers' premises, where multiple manufacturers' asbestos-containing products were stored and fabricated, including those of defendant Eternit, Inc.

The Kazan firm filed suit on behalf of Mr. Henderson in July 2001 and the unanimous verdict against Eternit came in mid-December: the defendant was found liable on three different theories of liabiltiy while simultaneously clearing Mr. Henderson of any negligence himself. Mr. Henderson was awarded over $500,000 in economic damages and $6,000,000 for pain, suffering and other non-economic damages. His wife and the second plaintiff in the case, Marlene Henderson, was awarded $5,000,000 for the loss of her husband's consortium and companionship caused by his mesothelioma. The plaintiffs' case was tried by a team of Kazan attorneys that included principal Dianna Lyons and associates Karen Creech and Carlos Guzmán