California Appeals Court Upholds Asbestos Cancer Verdict Against J-M Manufacturing

A California appeals court recently upheld a substantial multimillion dollar jury verdict awarded to a husband and wife who claimed that the defendant caused the husband’s rare and deadly form of cancer from exposure to asbestos containing products manufactured by the company. In their verdict in favor of the plaintiffs, the California state jury awarded the husband over $14 million for his economic damages, as well as his pain and suffering, and an additional $1 million to his wife for her loss of consortium. The defendant, J-M Manufacturing, appealed the jury’s verdict in the hopes of having the verdict and the awards tossed.

According to the asbestos cancer lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court in 2018, the husband plaintiff was employed as a construction worker and supervision during the 1970s and 1980s. During that time, according to the lawsuit, he was frequently exposed to asbestos fibers in cement pipes manufactured and sold by J-M Manufacturing. As a result of this exposure to asbestos containing products over nearly two decades, the plaintiff developed a rare and deadly form of lung cancer called mesothelioma.

After a trial spanning October and November 2018, the Los Angeles County jury awarded the plaintiff and his wife over $15 million in compensatory damages for their past and future medical bills, pain and suffering, and loss of consortium. Additionally, the jury saw fit to award the plaintiffs an additional $15 million in punitive damages, which are a special type of award handed down in circumstances where it can be established that a defendant acted with an much more egregious level of negligence.

J-M Manufacturing appealed the jury’s decision to the California Court of Appeal, arguing that the verdict and compensatory and punitive damages awards should be tossed for a variety of reasons. In its appeal, J-M Manufacturing asserted that it did not supply any of the asbestos-containing pipe, and that other defendants who had already settled with the plaintiff’s bore the responsibility for the husband’s mesothelioma cancer diagnosis.

Further, the defendant argued that the court erred in its final instructions to the jury before the group was sent to deliberate on the matter, and that this caused the jury to improperly find in favor of the plaintiffs. Lastly, J-M Manufacturing claimed that the plaintiffs failed to establish the requisite facts needed to legally satisfy an award for punitive damages under California state law.

While the Court of Appeal did side with J-M Manufacturing as to its argument over punitive damages pleadings, vacating that award, the court did uphold the jury’s verdict and award for compensatory damages.

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