A brake part manufacturer’s liability to a repairman and his family for injuries the man suffered sadly evolved, after the man’s death, into a second case to determine the amount of damages the manufacturer owed the family for the worker’s wrongful death. In a January 2014 trial, an Alameda County jury awarded the worker’s family $11 million for the 17 years the man’s injuries — specifically, mesothelioma resulting from inhaling asbestos dust — shaved off his life.
Gordon Bankhead spent 35 years working as a repairman on heavy-duty vehicles. During his years on the job, Bankhead often handled asbestos-lined brake parts in the course of repairing or replacing brakes on the vehicles he serviced. The worker was also present for inspection of these brake parts. The nature of Bankhead’s job duties forced him to inhale asbestos dust emitted by the brake linings, which is extremely harmful. As a result, the worker developed mesothelioma, which his doctors diagnosed in January 2010. Mesothelioma is a rare variety of cancer where cancerous cells attack the protective lining covering the body’s internal organs. Exposure to asbestos is the most common cause for developing mesothelioma.
The worker sued Pneumo Abex LLC, the maker of the asbestos-laden brake parts, two months after his diagnosis. Pneumo Abex manufactured brake linings that attached to brake shoes and axles. Bankhead contended that the manufacturer knew the brake parts were dangerous, but failed to warn him, instead suppressed information regarding the parts’ dangers. A jury concluded that the manufacturer was negligent and that its negligence caused Bankhead’s mesothelioma. At the conclusion of the family’s first trial, a jury awarded $3.9 million in compensatory damages and $13.5 in punitive damages. Although the manufacturer appealed, the verdict and award stood.
Unfortunately for the family, events brought them back to court after the worker died in October 2011. As a result, Bankhead’s wife and daughters brought a wrongful death claim against the manufacturer. Because the first jury already resolved the issues regarding the manufacturer’s negligence and that negligence’s blame for the worker’s injuries in favor of the worker, the family’s wrongful death trial revolved solely around the proper amount of damages.
The jury concluded last month that the 68-year-old Bankhead died 17 years earlier than he otherwise would have, if he had not contracted mesothelioma, based on a normal life expectancy. The jury awarded Bankhead’s widow $6 million and his daughters $2.5 million each. Because Pneumo Abex was 30% responsible for the injuries, it owed the family $3.3 million. The remainder of the liability was split between Bankhead’s employer and the manufacturers of the brake shoes.
Losing a loved one before their time is always tragic, but the loss is especially difficult when it is the result of a needlessly dangerous product. If you or a loved one have been injured as a result of a product manufacturer’s negligence, the Oakland personal injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Stephen M. Fuerch can help. Our injury attorneys have the knowledge, experience and determination needed to handle your case successfully and to help your family receive the proper compensation for the injuries you have suffered. Contact us through our website or call our office at (925) 463-2575 to schedule your confidential initial consultation today.
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