California Jury Awards $10.9 Million in Mesothelioma Lawsuit

June 5, 2014 — Jurors in Fresno, California have awarded $10.9 million to the family of a former mechanic who died of mesothelioma caused by exposure to asbestos.

The plaintiff, James “Jimmy” Phillips, was a 59 year-old plumber and race car enthusiast. Beginning in the 1960s, he was exposed to asbestos-containing brake pads and lining that were manufactured by Bendix, a predecessor to Honeywell, while working on cars, race cars, trucks, and heavy machinery. In March 2012, he was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma. Despite nearly a year of treatment, he died of the disease, leaving behind a wife, five children, and 14 grandchildren.

The jury found that Phillips’ exposure to Bendix brakes was a factor in his mesothelioma. They awarded $7.4 million in compensation and $3.5 million in punitive damages after finding that Bendix acted with reckless indifference. They assigned about 30% liability to Honeywell/Bendix.

It is the first-ever mesothelioma verdict awarded in Fresno. The lawsuit was originally filed in May 2012 in Alameda County, but defendants succeeded in transferring it to Fresno. The trial ran for about two weeks. The jury spent six days deliberating before reaching a verdict in favor of the Phillips family.

Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer affecting the lungs, lining of the chest, and abdominal cavity. It is primarily caused by exposure to asbestos, a mineral fiber that was historically added to a variety of products to strengthen them, provide heat insulation, and fire resistance.

Most people who are exposed to small amounts of asbestos are not at risk of health problems. However, breathing high levels of asbestos for a long period of time can increase the risk of mesothelioma. The symptoms of mesothelioma do not usually appear for 20-30 years after the first exposure to asbestos. Mesothelioma can also affect people who had second-hand exposure to asbestos — for example, on the work clothes of a loved one.

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