$37 Million for Lung Cancer

On Friday, May 11, 2007, Weitz & Luxenberg, P.C., a staunch protector of the rights of workers who have been recklessly exposed to asbestos, won Phase II of a reverse-bifurcated lung cancer trial against Robert A. Keasbey Company.

The company was a former insulation contractor that also distributed asbestos products in the New York metropolitan area. In those verdicts, $26 million was found for Bonita Martin, the widow of boilermaker Edward Martin, and $11 million for Nicole Eyring, the daughter of Robert Letteire, a steamfitter (Martin Index #100016/99 and Letteire #113583/05, New York Supreme Court, Manhattan).

James C. Long, Jr., Weitz & Luxenberg trial team attorney and lead counsel said, “Our clients suffered greatly. We are pleased that the jury was receptive to the evidence that established the substantive role that exposure to asbestos plays in the development of lung cancer and other debilitating diseases.” On March 22, 2007, the jury, in Phase I of the trial, awarded $26 million in damages to Bonita Martin, the widow of boilermaker Edward Martin, and $11 million to Nicole Eyring, the daughter of Robert Lettiere, a steamfitter (Martin Index #100016/99 and Lettieire #113583/05, New York Supreme Court, Manhattan).

Both Martin and Lettiere died of lung cancer, and at issue before the jury in Phase I, was whether asbestos was a substantial contributing factor in causing the disease. (In a reverse-bifurcation trial procedure, the jury determines causation and damages first, before determining liability.) The jury determined that the occupational exposures to asbestos of both men were “substantial factors” in causing their lung cancer, rejecting the defense that the sole cause of their lung cancers was smoking.

Phase II of the trial commenced on April 23, 2007 before the same jury. At issue was whether Keasbey exposed both men to asbestos while installing asbestos insulation at various New York City area powerhouses; whether they did so negligently, and whether such negligence was a substantial factor in causing their lung cancers.

Additionally, the jury was asked to determine whether Keasbey acted “recklessly.” The jury answered all questions in Weitz & Luxenberg’s favor on Friday, assigning 40 percent responsibility to Keasbey in the Martin case and 15 percent responsibility in the Lettiere case.

This was the first time that an asbestos defendant brought forth a full tobacco company liability case, calling pulmonologist Dr. Hans Weill, and a tobacco historian, Dr. Louis Kyriakoudes, to the stand in an effort to again try to blame smoking as the sole or overwhelming cause of the lung cancers.

Because the jury found Keasbey to be “reckless,” Keasbey is also responsible for the shares of liability assigned to Philip Morris and RJ Reynolds (totaling 20 percent) in the Martin case and to Philip Morris (15 percent) in the Lettiere case, and will also pay the shares of other companies that were not sued and were assigned a percent of fault by the jury.

The Weitz & Luxenberg trial team included Long, Douglas D. von Oiste, Jerry Kristal and Patti Burshtyn, with extensive legal research and trial support on the case conducted by Christopher Romanelli, Stephen Riegel, Tom Comerford and Jessica Russell. The judge was the Honorable Shirley Kornreich.

The firm is known for spearheading asbestos cases. In 2002, the firm won a $53 million verdict for a brake mechanic suffering from mesothelioma, and a $49 million dollar verdict for a boilermaker who died from mesothelioma.

Weitz and Luxenberg’s successes date back to 1991, when we won a historic consolidated trial involving men who had worked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in the 1940s and 1950s. Weitz & Luxenberg represented 36 clients in that case and secured verdicts of $75 million.

The firm has recovered hundreds of millions more. Weitz & Luxenberg is a leading plaintiffs’ law firm that has represented people affected by mesothelioma for over 20 years. Men and women diagnosed with mesothelioma or lung cancer caused by asbestos exposure may be entitled to compensation from the companies responsible for their disease.

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