Weitz & Luxenberg recently secured a $23 million trial verdict win for 81-year-old James McWilliams. Mr. McWilliams was a lifelong steamfitter. He was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a cancer caused by exposure to asbestos.
W&L attorney Brittany Russell tried the case with valuable assistance from Pierre Ratzki, a member of W&L’s Appellate Team.
The jury awarded Mr. McWilliams $23 million in compensatory damages. The award designated $13 million for past pain and suffering. Another $10 million was awarded for future pain and suffering.
The six jurors unanimously found Jenkins Bros. 90% responsible. They assigned 10% of fault to Johns Manville, a bankrupt entity that manufactured insulation used on Jenkins Bros. valves and supplied raw asbestos fiber to Jenkins Bros.
The trial was held in New York, New York, and the verdict was reached late last month. The Honorable Suzanne Adams presided.
“I’m incredibly grateful to the jurors, who devoted so much of their time listening to this case,” Ms. Russell says. “I’m so thankful that they recognized that Mr. McWilliams has suffered tremendously as a result of Jenkins Bros. negligent conduct and that they delivered justice for him.”
Mr. McWilliams was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma in September 2018. He was a career union steamfitter for Local 638 in New York City from 1960 to 1996.
He spent his entire career working all over New York City. In fact, he can be credited with installing and removing Jenkins Bros. valves for many of the city’s iconic buildings, including the:
Mr. McWilliams was exposed to asbestos through his work installing and removing asbestos containing flange gaskets used in connection with Jenkins Bros. valves flange gaskets and valves. This exposure went on for more than three decades.
“Jenkins Bros. was an international company,” Ms. Russell told the jury. The corporation manufactured valves and asbestos containing component parts, such as gaskets and packing, for over 100 years. They purchased tens of thousands of pounds of raw asbestos each year.
“Jenkins Bros. knew about the dangers of asbestos potentially as early as the 1930s and undeniably knew by the 1960s, yet failed to warn about the known deadly dangers of working with their asbestos containing products. That failure has caused unimaginable pain to the McWilliams family.”
“Jenkins Bros. cross-examined Mr. McWilliams for almost four days,” Ms. Russell remembers. “And day after day it was obvious that he was telling the truth. This verdict shows that the jury recognized our client’s honesty, personal integrity, and horrific pain and suffering.”
“During Jenkins Bros. heyday, which was also Mr. McWilliams’ exposure period, Jenkins Bros. boasted that they were the major manufacturer and supplier of valves to this region and that they had exclusive contracts for some of New York City’s most iconic buildings, including buildings where Mr. McWilliams worked,” Mr. Ratzki notes. “They also proudly advertised their comprehensive line of asbestos containing gaskets which were intended for use with their valves. Yet, during the trial, they denied all of these previous admissions.” Nevertheless, the jury found that Mr. McWilliams was exposed to asbestos from his work with Jenkins Bros. valves.
Although Jenkins Bros. itself no longer exists, their insurance policies cover legal claims such as this one brought on behalf of Mr. McWilliams.
“Mr. McWilliams helped build the city; he helped build some of the most iconic buildings in the New York City skyline. And because of that, he’s going to die of a cancer that was preventable. And the jury recognized that Jenkins Bros. was responsible,” Mr. Ratzki explains.
“Jenkins Bros. actually advertised themselves as the valve that shaped the skyline. Mr. McWilliams was one of the men who built that skyline,” Ms. Russell adds.
She is glad to have achieved some justice for Mr. McWilliams, “I hope our client is able to spend some quality time with his son, grandsons, and great-grandson. He is also, sadly, likely facing further treatment.”
Since W&L’s founding in the mid-1980s, our attorneys have made it our mission to help people harmed by the negligent actions of large companies. Particularly with asbestos exposure cases, we aim to hold accountable the companies whose actions are most shameful and punishable.
We fight with every legal tool available to us to secure just compensation for our clients who were harmed by these corporations.
Over the years, we have won millions of dollars on behalf of our asbestos exposure clients, including these cases: