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ARTICLE ID 8463

$________ Asbestosis - Defective product and negligence - Retired electrician diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma due to occupational exposure to asbestos.

San Francisco county, California

In this asbestos action, the plaintiff, Philip Hoeffer, sued the defendant alleging negligence for failure to warn about asbestos contained in the various electrical components which the plaintiff worked with for a substantial amount of years in his career as an electrician.

The defendant contended that it was not responsible for the plaintiff’s asbestos exposure or the resulting illness.

The plaintiff, a 74-year-old retired electrician, is terminally ill with malignant pleural mesothelioma caused by asbestos exposure on the job. Rostone Corporation developed, manufactured and sold asbestos-containing phenolic plastic compounds and molded asbestos-containing parts for many of the major electrical equipment manufacturers since the 1940s, including GE, Westinghouse, Square D, Cutler Hammer and Allen Bradley.

Rostone’s asbestos-containing phenolic plastic compounds and molded parts were used for arc chutes, breakers, contactors and enclosures found in distribution panels, breaker boxes, rotary switches, motor controllers and other electrical equipment prior to ________. Allen Bradley manufactured and sold asbestos-containing electrical equipment prior to ________. Rostone Corporation of Lafayette, Indiana, was previously owned and merged into Allen Bradley of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which itself was ultimately purchased and merged into Rockwell Automation, the defendant in this matter.

The plaintiff was first exposed to asbestos when he disassembled and rebuilt his first automobile as a teenager. He was exposed to asbestos-containing brakes, clutches and engine gaskets while performing this work. Mr.

Hoeffer was an enthusiast of sprint car racing and was involved in similar automobile repair and modifications from ________ through ________ on multiple vehicles.

After attending college, the plaintiff enlisted in the United States Navy in ________ and served honorably until ________. He was trained as a Navy electrician. While carrying out his duties, the plaintiff came in constant contact with electrical equipment. He cleaned contacts with emery cloth and maintained equipment with files and screwdrivers, frequently abrading the phenolic plastic part which generated respirable asbestos. Additionally, the evidence established that the operation of such equipment generated respirable asbestos due to friction and wear from moving parts. The equipment aboard his Navy ships included Westinghouse panels, Cutler Hammer panels and Allen Bradley switches, all of which incorporated Rostone molded parts.

Upon his discharge, Mr. Hoeffer worked as a design engineer for Ralph M. Parsons in Pasadena, California, from ________ to ________. He developed prototype military equipment utilizing early electronic miniaturization technology. In constructing these prototypes, the plaintiff cut and drilled asbestos-containing phenolic panels to use as circuit boards.

In ________, Mr. Hoeffer moved to Charlottesville, Virginia. He worked for R.E. Lee & Sons, a large general contractor, from ________-________. During the construction of a nurse’s dormitory at the University of Virginia in ________, Mr. Hoeffer supervised multiple trades, including drywall workers sanding asbestos-containing joint compounds. He also oversaw the clean up of electrical equipment debris when an explosion destroyed Westinghouse distribution panels on every other floor of the nine story building. Rostone asbestos-containing molded parts were utilized in those panels.

The plaintiff then worked as the head of renovations for the University of Virginia in Charlottesville from ________ to ________, when he retired due to his present illness. He experienced frequent exposure to asbestos from existing electrical equipment and molded parts when he performed retrofit, repair and maintenance. Westinghouse, Square D, Allen Bradley and GE electrical equipment was used extensively at the University of Virginia. Much, if not all, of this equipment utilized Rostone molded parts.

The plaintiff maintained that he was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma, a rare cancer of the lining of the lung, in June of ________. Previously he had survived a rare cancer, malignant Schwannoma, which was diagnosed in ________. He had been cancer free for over ten years when he was diagnosed with the mesothelioma. Medical testimony established that the mesothelioma is unrelated to his prior malignancy and that it was caused by his occupational exposure to asbestos. Despite doing well on chemotherapy and a slow progression of his tumor, at the time of trial, the plaintiff was expected to expire within the following 12 to 24 month period.

At trial, Mr. Hoeffer described the course of his medical treatment and the affect it has had on his life. The plaintiff maintained that neither Allen Bradley nor Rostone Corporation, subsidiaries of the defendant, tested their products for fiber release during operation or maintenance over the decades each engaged in the manufacture and sale of asbestos-containing products. Neither company provided any warning to consumers about asbestos and did not indicate that asbestos was used in their phenolic plastic parts. Neither company recalled any of its asbestos-containing products, despite successfully developing asbestos free substitutes in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

@TITLEHD = DEFENDANTS’ CONTENTIONS The defendant maintained that the plaintiff’s mesothelioma was caused by exposure to amphibole asbestos from insulation during his Navy career and not the chrysotile asbestos in its products. It further contended that its products did not release harmful levels of respirable asbestos fiber during use or maintenance given that the fibers were "bound and encapsulated" in the phenolic-plastic matrix. The defendant presented expert testimony concerning fiber release testing performed at the request of defense counsel during recent litigation. This testing, which revealed small fiber counts, was conducted under alleged "worst case" conditions. The defendant maintained that based on this research, the plaintiff’s claim was false. The plaintiff maintained that internal documents obtained during discovery demonstrated that more extensive cycling and testing of the same products at the company had been done years before and produced visible dust from wearing of the asbestos-containing phenolic plastic parts. This trial lasted over one month. At its conclusion, after four days of deliberations, the jury determined that the defendant was liable for the defective products and negligence of its subsidiaries. The jury award was comprised of past medical expenses in the amount of $________; future medical expenses of $________; past lost earnings capacity of $________; future lost earnings capacity of $________; loss of future household services in the amount of $________ and pain and suffering of $________.

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