Steffen v. CalPortland Company, et. al.

Case Summary

Bernard Steffen is a 69-year-old man who resides in Sylmar, California, with his wife, Geraldine “Gerri” Steffen. Mr. Steffen is a career painter/handyman who, since the early 1960s, has worked with joint compounds primarily on homes, apartment buildings, and department stores. He was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma in April 2010. On June 20, 2011, a California superior court ordered Union Carbide and CalPortland to pay $8,465,738 to Mr. Steffen for his asbestos exposure.

Verdict*

June 20, 2011
$8,465,+738 total jury award
Breakdown: $1,963,738 to Bernard Steffen for past and future economic damages; $6,502,000 to Bernard Steffen for non-economic damages
*Defendants CalPortland Company (f/k/a California Portland Cement Company) and Union Carbide Corp. were found responsible for the plaintiff’s illness, and apportioned a prorated 1/10 (10%) liability.

Significance

The plaintiff lived to see the outcome of the trial — a rare occurrence since most mesothelioma patients die within six to 18 months of diagnosis.
Because Union Carbide was a primary supplier of asbestos rather than the manufacturer of the end product, the defendant argued that they had no control over how another company used their product. The jury was required to address Union Carbide’s liability for a product produced by another company that has since declared bankruptcy.

Case Information

Cause No. BC446485
Steffen v. CalPortland Company
Trial Length: 37 days

Jurisdiction

Los Angles County, Calif., Superior Court
Hon. Yvette M. Palazuelos, presiding

Plaintiff’s Experts (live testimony)

Carl Brodkin, M.D.
Robert J. Cunitz, PhD

Defense Experts (live testimony)

Allen Gibbs, M.D.
William Hughson, M.D.
Jeffrey Hicks, CIH

Plaintiff’s Counsel

Waters Kraus & Paul (Los Angeles):
Scott Frost (lead counsel)
Tae Kim

Defense Counsel

CalPortland

Berkes, Crane, Robinson & Seal, LLP (Los Angeles):
Robert Berkes

Union Carbide

Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe, LLP (San Francisco):
Nathan Dullum
McKenna, Long & Aldridge LLP (Los Angeles):
Joseph Greenslade
Farah Nicol
Baker Botts, LLP (Houston)
Kevin Jordan

Disclaimer – Results obtained depend on the facts of each case. Award amounts are not actual cash amounts received by plaintiffs. Deductions are made for liens, attorney fees and expenses.

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