Oct 6, 2014 – Santa Monica Superior Court, Santa Monica, CA
A Santa Monica jury sends a strong message to would-be plaintiffs in premises liability actions about who can be held liable for their asbestos exposure. “It’s a big win for landowners,” says defense attorney James Yukevich of Yukevich Cavanaugh, Los Angeles – San Francisco – San Diego. “The question here was whether a property owner could be held liable for the acts of a lease-holder. The jury came back with a resounding ‘No.’”
The hard-fought, three-week battle in the courtroom of Judge Lawrence Cho culminated in a unanimous defense verdict Monday, in favor of landowners, PAC Operating Limited Partnership. It took the jury just two hours to decide that PAC was not to blame for Plaintiff Anthony Marquez contracting peritoneal mesothelioma, when he was allegedly exposed to asbestos from a Johns Manville mine more than four decades ago.
From 1962 to 1974, Johns Manville ran its mine near land in Coalinga, California, which they leased from PAC. Within that time frame, Marquez was a resident of Coalinga and says he was exposed daily to deadly asbestos fibers from the mine. Counsel for Marquez, William Levin and Laurel Simes of the San Francisco law firm of Levin Simes, called ten witnesses over three weeks including experts in epidemiology, asbestos history, and industrial hygiene who testified that asbestos fibers from the mine led to Marquez contracting his deadly form of mesothelioma.
Still, the jury was not moved. On Monday, the 9-woman, 3-man panel decided that, although Marquez was exposed to asbestos fibers from the mine, the exposure was not a substantial factor increasing his risk of contracting mesothelioma.
“This was a difficult case,” says Yukevich, attorney for PAC. “Plaintiffs came after my client due to the fact that Johns Manville declared bankruptcy. The verdict should send a message that unless some negligence can be shown, juries will not impute liability for asbestos exposures to property owners.”