Tommie Williams a long time resident of California, was diagnosed with mesothelioma, also known as asbestos cancer, at the age of 59. He was exposed to asbestos-containing products during the course of his career as a shipyard worker and during home remodeling projects. Tommie married his current wife, Imogene Williams, in 1975. Together they had two daughters and one son. Tommie also had a son and daughter from a previous marriage.
Born the son of a Mississippi sharecropper, Tommie spent a very difficult and impoverished childhood growing up in the Deep South. As a child, he suffered severe burns to his hand. Unfortunately, the burns went untreated because his family did not have access to medical insurance. The skin on his fourth and fifth fingers grew together causing permanent disfigurement. However, he made the most of his lot in life. He later moved to California and became the successful owner of several rental properties.
From the late 1960’s through the 1980’s, Tommie held many positions as a shipyard worker such as a chipper/caulker, grinder, pneumatic tool operator, ship fitter, metal inspector, tank test coordinator, shop planner, and ship fitter leader. His duties were performed in the cramped quarters on the interior of ships, where there was little space and poor ventilation. Tommie recalled working with and/or around asbestos-containing components and machinery such as boilers, pumps, gaskets, and insulating cement on numerous ships at various shipyards. Tommie frequently and continuously cleaned up the dust generated by the work.
Also during this time, Tommie intermittently performed home remodeling projects on his home as well as other homes in the Los Angeles area. During these projects, He patched walls, replaced drywall and replaced ceilings. This required mixing, pouring, applying, sanding, and spraying of asbestos-containing joint compound. The entire process generated a lot of dust, which Tommie inhaled. He later testified that there was “dust everywhere” and the rooms where he sanded the drywall became “full of dust”. Frequently and continuously he had to sweep up the dusty floors during the projects.
Early in September 2003, Tommie experienced the first symptoms signaling that something was wrong. He was short of breath and worse, coughing up blood. He visited his medical clinic for diagnosis and treatment. Tommie’s doctor took chest x-rays, performed a tissue biopsy, and drained excess fluid from his lung. Subsequently, Tommie was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma on September 19, 2003. The doctor advised him that it was caused by occupational exposure to asbestos. Further, he advised that Tommie was a candidate for surgery. However, Tommie declined surgical intervention as an option because, of the invasive nature and limited upside. By choice, he received little to no treatment for his illness.
Through Waters Kraus & Paul, LLP, Tommie and his wife filed an asbestos claim in January, 2004. Just one year later, trial was reached. The Williams family received a favorable verdict. Sadly, Tommie succumbed to the ravages of mesothelioma in the spring of 2006. Mike Armitage, our managing partner in our California office, had this to say, “I’ve had no greater privilege as a lawyer than to represent Tommie and his family.” Tommie left behind four adult children and his wife of 30 years.