Bobby Evans worked for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power for many years. Part of his work involved cutting asbestos-cement water pipe. On April 30th, a Los Angeles jury concluded that the dust he brought home on his clothes from cutting pipe made by CertainTeed had caused his wife, Rhoda, to develop mesothelioma. They found CertainTeed to be 70% "at fault", his employer to be 30% "at fault", awarded her $6 million in compensatory damages, awarded him $2 million in loss of consortium damages, and further awarded a $200 million punitive damages against CertainTeed.
There was no doubt in anyone's mind that the punitive damage verdict would be reduced as out of proportion with the compensatory damages. Judge Aragon, in an Order [ Download Order ] issued July 20th, went more than a bit farther, however. It seems that there was evidence at trial of substantial amounts of Johns Manville asbestos cement pipe at the Department of Water and Power, as well as Kubota and Crane asbestos-containing products. The jury, however, found those companies to be 0% "at fault" when rendering their verdict. Judge Aragon held that finding was "not sustainable" given the evidence at trial, and felt that cast the balance of their verdict in doubt. He therefore ordered a re-trial of the entire case.
(Judge Aragon also reduced punitive damages to $5,821,015, a 1:1 ratio with CertainTeed's share of Mrs. Evans' compensatory damage award, just in case the Court of Appeals does not feel a new trial is justified.)
A lawyer for plaintiffs in asbestos cases once told me that, when dealing with a particular Judge, he was always careful what he asked for because, "the verdict has to stand up on appeal." The Evans' attorneys now know to be careful what they ask of Los Angeles juries...