A residential construction contractor and his wife were recently awarded $666,000 in an asbestos product liability lawsuit. The contractor was exposed to asbestos through his work until he retired in 1991, and he eventually developed a malignant cancer called pleural mesothelioma, which impacts the lining of the lungs. This type of mesothelioma is difficult to detect and often proves to be fatal.
The contractor alleged that the asbestos companies had an implied warranty that their asbestos-containing products and equipment were safe for their intended use, but that the products created an unreasonable risk of bodily harm.
The first asbestos exposure that the contractor alleges in his lawsuit occurred while he was working for an Alameda property owner between 1963 and 1967. One of his responsibilities as a handyman was moving and repairing walls. The man recalled using a joint compound containing asbestos to complete his wall repair work. Asbestos products were used in a variety of construction materials during this period because asbestos fibers can help make materials stronger and flame-retardant.
After purchasing a duplex in Alameda in 1968, the contractor continued using asbestos-containing products to replace and patch walls. The contractor also used asbestos joint compound powder mixes until 1976.
"To use the joint compound, he poured the powder into a container and mixed it with water until he achieved the consistency he required," the lawsuit alleged. "Pouring the joint compound into a container created a dusty condition in the air around [the contractor], and he breathed in this dust."
The contractor was exposed to additional asbestos dust while sanding the walls in the areas where the asbestos-laced mixture was poured. This was a regular practice in the construction industry for many years and a reason why so many construction contractors develop mesothelioma.
Breathing in asbestos fibers is the primary way that people develop pleural mesothelioma. Like many other contractors, the Alameda man demonstrated that the companies making asbestos-laced building materials failed to warn consumers of the dangers associated with asbestos inhalation, despite manufacturers' access to information regarding the risks of asbestos.
Georgia-Pacific LLC and Kaiser-Gypsum Co. Inc. were two of the many defendants involved in this litigation. A jury ultimately awarded the contractor and his wife $666,000 and apportioned fault 40 percent to Kaiser Gypsum, 40 percent to Georgia-Pacific and 20 percent to the contractor.