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.”
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