Los Angeles Jury Returns a Defense Verdict for Partners Brian Buddell and Jennifer Rasmussen

We are pleased to announce that after a five-week trial, a Van Nuys jury returned a complete defense verdict in favor of our client, a wholesale plumbing supplier, tried by Demler, Armstrong & Rowland (“DAR”) partners Brian H. Buddell and Jennifer C. Rasmussen.

Asking the jury to award over $100 Million, Plaintiffs Kirtley Bjoin and his wife Allison Bjoin, claimed that Kirtley Bjoin, a 62-year-old non-smoker with Stage IV lung cancer, was exposed to asbestos from his work with and around underground asbestos cement pipe supplied by DAR’s client from the 1970s through the 1990s, in this asbestos products liability action filed by Weitz & Luxenburg. 

Proceeding under both negligence and strict liability causes of action, plaintiff alleged that: a) The product did not perform as safely as an ordinary consumer of asbestos cement pipe would expect; b) Defendants failed to warn about the dangers of the product; and c) The risks posed by the asbestos found in the pipe outweighed the benefits of the product. 

Our trial team countered that: a) The product was safe if used properly; b) If the asbestos contributed to cause plaintiff’s disease, it was his actions and not those of the supplier that represented a substantial factor; c) Plaintiff, as an experienced pipe layer was a “sophisticated user;” and d) Because there was no viable alternative at the time (due in part because asbestos cement pipe was utilized by the municipalities entities for whom plaintiff was installing it), the benefits did outweigh the risks.

After only 3½ hours of deliberations, the jury agreed with the defense, finding that it was plaintiff’s misuse of the product that created any hazard and that the actions of the supplier did not constitute a substantial factor in increasing plaintiff’s risk of developing lung cancer.  All jurors spoken to were also highly complementary of the style, organization, and presentation of the DAR trial team.

Stated Jennifer Rasmussen of the verdict, “We are so pleased that the jury hung in there and listened to the entire case, giving our client an opportunity to present what we knew from the outset, to be a strong and viable defense. We hope too that this defense verdict shows that well-thought out and streamlined defenses can be successful, and that juries are willing to hear both sides of the arguments. We are also so appreciative of Judge Graciela Frexies for her fair and thoughtful handling of this complicated case.”

Nick Pancharian

Nick Pancharian is an attorney in Demler, Armstrong & Rowland’s Sacramento office.  He primarily focuses his practice on transportation law and insurance coverage for public entities.  Prior to joining the firm, Mr. Pancharian represented public entities in litigation involving a variety of claims.  In addition, he has extensive professional experience outside the practice of law in both the public and private sectors.  His years of practical background, coupled with his legal experience, enables Mr. Pancharian to effectively anticipate the needs of his clients and understand the unique challenges they face from an insider’s perspective. 

Michael E. Wade

born Los Angeles, California

Michael (“Mike”) Wade undertook a unique path to the practice of law and his ultimate partnership with Robert Armstrong and Terry Rowland from 1984 to 2010, when he retired and moved from his Southern California roots to the Pacific Northwest, only to rejoin the firm in 2023, as Of Counsel

In 1966, shortly after graduating high school, Mike enlisted as a medic in the U.S. Army during the height of the Vietnam War.  He was instead selected to the Infantry Officer Candidate School where, upon graduation, he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant and thereafter promoted to First Lieutenant. Deployed to South Vietnam in 1968 through 1969, he had the honor of serving with the 101st Airborne Division as an Infantry Captain.  He extended his 4-year service commitment for an additional tour and, during that year, he was selected to serve on two Courts-Martial.  Witnessing veteran members of the Army’s Judge Advocates Core rigorously prosecuting and defending murder and rape allegations, Mike’s interest in the law was ignited, causing him to continue his education, obtaining a Bachelor Science Degree from Long Beach State and thereafter his Juris Doctorate from Pepperdine University in 1977.

After joining a boutique transactional and litigation firm in 1977, he met Terry Rowland, who asked that he try some cases with what became Demler, Armstrong & Rowand.  As an equity partner, Mike tried numerous jury trials to verdict, defending both individuals and companies against of allegations of Bad Faith, Personal Injury Negligence, Product Liability, California’s Mobile Home Residency Law, Trademark Infringement; Intentional Interference with Prospective Economic Advantage and Violation of the Rent Stabilization Act, with one such trial lasting over 7 months.  He obtained defense verdicts on hotly contested bad faith and wrongful termination of contract cases, and prevailed in those same actions on cross-complaints for several hundred thousands of dollars.

As lead counsel for various insurance companies, Mike defended over 200 lawsuits alleging Bad Faith following the Northridge Earthquake in both State and Federal Court, during which he was recognized both by the plaintiff bar and Superior Court and Federal District Court Judges as an aggressive advocate, yet a man of his word. 

A Member of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, The American Board of Trial Advocates, and even the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, Mike was also recognized as a Southern California Super Lawyer for many consecutive years. 

One who saw a need, Mike’s volunteerism had no bounds.  President of various Homeowner Associations in Orange County, he also served as the Chairman of the Board of a large Southern California Church, as well as ultimately being elected by over 700 National youth soccer leaders as the volunteer President of the American Youth Soccer Organization (“AYSO”).  


Co-authored major tax legislation for the California health care industry

1966-1970 Captain U.S. Army Airborne Infantry

1977 Admitted to California bar

1977-1985 Extensive civil trial and appellate experience, with business and real estate emphasis in Orange County, California

1985 Joined Demler, Armstrong & Rowland

2006-2007 Southern California Super Lawyer, as recognized by Los Angeles Magazine


• American Board of Trial Advocates
• The Million Dollar Advocates Forum
• Orange County Bar Association
• San Diego County Bar Association
• American Bar Association
• Association of Southern California Defense Lawyers


1974 Graduated California State University, Long Beach, B.A. Business Management

1977 Graduated Pepperdine University School of Law

1977 Chairman of the Moot Court Honors Board

Merve Kaner

Merve Kaner is an associate at the Long Beach office of Demler, Armstrong & Rowland, where she brings her extensive experience as a seasoned litigator from Turkey.  With a background in both civil and criminal defense, Merve has practiced law in Turkey for numerous years, handling a diverse range of cases in both national and international legal arenas.  With a solid foundation in litigation, Merve has successfully represented clients in a wide range of legal disputes in Turkey, from complex commercial to criminal cases and regulatory matters.

Admitted to practice law in Turkey since 2011 and more recently in the State of California, Merve’s legal career spans over a decade.  This dual admission equips her with the ability to navigate legal matters effectively both within the United States and internationally.

Merve holds a Master of Laws degree in American Law from the University of California, Irvine School of Law, as well as a Bachelor of Law degree from Baskent University Law School in Ankara, Turkey.  Her educational background further enhances her expertise and understanding of legal principles.  Merve is fluent in Turkish.

Golf Event with the VFW

The firm recently supported a golf benefit for VFW Post 4647 in Antelope, California. Jim Weixel from the firm’s Sacramento office participated in the outing, which was well attended by members of the post and from the local community. Many thanks to the VFW for a great day out and for the opportunity to support its many important activities for the benefit of our veterans.

Michele Barnes

Ms. Barnes is a seasoned litigator who has tried scores of cases throughout the West Coast and routinely argued before the California and Ninth Circuit Courts of Appeal.

Ms. Barnes’ practice focuses on representing industrial and consumer product manufacturers. Ms. Barnes serves as National Coordinating Counsel for several clients overseeing tort litigation claims throughout the country. She regularly works with clients to evaluate risk management practices, review marketing and use materials, and provide guidance on a variety of regulatory issues, including CPSC, FTCA and Proposition 65.

Ms. Barnes has been a regular contributor and editor to PLIs Expert Witness Handbook since 2009, including chapters on the admissibility of testimony, expert disqualification, and emerging issues related to fire causation.

Summary Judgement for Landlord in Pitbull Case

Marking a victory for DAR by partner Pennie Liu and associate Kelly Kim, they obtained summary judgment in a dog bite/premises liability case in favor of our landlord clients who rented out a single-family home in El Monte.  Unbeknownst to the landlords, the tenant’s pitbull had violently killed another dog years before it attacked the plaintiff.  Plaintiff argued that this previous incident, as well as a handwritten provision in the lease agreement approving tenant’s “two pet dogs” was evidence that the landlords had actual knowledge of the dog’s propensities and that they should have realized the dog’s violent propensities.   The defendants argued that they did not have actual knowledge of the dog’s dangerous propensities because they were unaware of the prior incident. 

After extensive oral argument at the hearing, plaintiff convinced the Court to allow supplemental briefing on the issue of the landlords’ alleged failure to conduct routine inspections of the property, arguing that, had they done such inspections, they would have seen the dangerous pitbull on site, bark and growl at visitors.  Based on the supplemental briefing, the Court granted summary judgment, concluding that one cannot assume a dog is dangerous based solely on its breed and growls/barking.

Kelly Kim

Kelly Kim is a Senior Associate in Demler, Armstrong & Rowland’s Long Beach office where she focuses her practice in the areas of general liability, automobile, premises liability and bad faith litigation. She has a broad range of experience, including in the areas of professional liability, catastrophic injury and bad faith litigation. She also enjoys substantial experience handling in employment-related disputes and malpractice cases. Kelly has a successful record of obtaining favourable settlements and assisting in numerous mediations and trials. Kelly graduated from the University of California, San Diego, obtaining a B.A. with distinction in Communications and a minor in Cognitive Science. She obtained her Juris Doctor from Southwestern Law School, where she was a member of the Asian Pacific American Women Lawyers Alliance and a judicial extern for the Honourable Barry Russell, Judge of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court. Ms. Kim was admitted to the California State Bar in 2015 and the United States District Court for the Central District of California in 2016. Outside of the office, Ms. Kim loves spending time with her family and serving at her local church. Ms. Kim is fluent in Korean.

Courtney Ryan

Courtney Ryan is an associate in the Long Beach office of Demler Armstrong, & Rowland.

Courtney earned her law degree from Pepperdine Caruso School of Law in 2022. Prior to law school, Courtney attended California State University, Long Beach, where she graduated cum laude and received her B.A. in Business Economics. Before joining Demler, Armstrong, & Rowland in 2023, Courtney clerked for a civil litigation firm specializing in consumer protection and automotive litigation. Courtney is a Long Beach native, currently residing in Signal Hill. She enjoys trying new restaurants with friends and taking her dog to the beach.