Asbestos

Sedgwick’s work in the area of asbestos litigation has spanned more than two decades. Sedgwick has established groups of experienced practitioners in each of our offices who are prominently involved in this specialized practice. Because our attorneys and legal staff have been working for years on the front lines of asbestos defense, they are able to provide our clients with the best and most cost-effective defense possible.

Sedgwick defends products and premises clients in tens of thousands of cases involving asbestosis, lung cancer, gastrointestinal and esophageal cancers, and mesothelioma conspiracy to defraud through manipulation of scientific literature about the effects of asbestos and market-share liability. Our team manages thousands of asbestos cases from initial responsive pleadings through trial.

Our attorneys have compiled extensive in-house and online research on asbestos issues, and have assembled our own broad toxicological library. We regularly interview and depose cancer researchers, chemists, engineers, risk assessment and related experts from around the world. Members of the firm have undertaken considerable research and have written on the issues of fear of cancer and increased risk of cancer. They have also presented papers at professional conferences on these topics.

Complex Case Resolution

Following the onset of asbestos premises liability litigation in California in the early 1990s, Sedgwick represented several oil refining companies in a joint defense group. Because the same plaintiffs (generally employees of independent contractors that worked at several industrial facilities) often sued more than one company in the same case, the joint defense afforded the companies substantial cost savings. The success of this joint defense over several years led to the formation of a “matrix” case processing agreement with one of the more prominent plaintiffs’ firms, in which the claims were not litigated, discovery was informal, and the companies resolved the plaintiffs’ claims according to case values based on disease and exposure information. Our clients resolved thousands of cases pursuant to the matrix agreement, resulting in reduced settlement values and litigation expenses for even the most serious high exposure cases.

Asbestos Trial Experience 

  • Attorneys in our San Francisco office have tried 11 asbestos cases to verdict (three asbestosis and eight mesothelioma cases) and have prepared and started trials in dozens more, achieving favorable results for our clients.
  • Attorneys in our New Jersey office have started trial in more than 20 cases in New Jersey, New York, Maryland and Pennsylvania involving all types of asbestos-related diseases, going to verdict in more than half of them. In the process, we obtained one of the only defense verdicts to date in New Jersey in a disputed mesothelioma case.
  • Attorneys in our Dallas office have defended a joint compound manufacturer at more than twelve trials in Texas.
  • In a wrongful death mesothelioma case, plaintiffs alleged market share theory of liability. After weeks of Cal. Evid. Code §402 hearings, Sedgwick obtained a nonsuit for our client. Affirmed on appeal (Ferris v. Gatke Corp., 107 Cal.App.4th 1211 (2003)).  
  • Sedgwick acted as lead counsel in the successful defense of asbestos claims alleging a conspiracy to defraud through the manipulation of scientific literature (Chavers v. Gatke Corp., 107 Cal. App. 4th 606 (2003)).
  • Our attorneys defended an action brought by approximately 150 plaintiffs as a result of 1997 industrial accident discharging asbestos. Claims involved medical monitoring, Proposition 65, property damage/stigma damage and punitive damages.
  • In 2006, Sedgwick’s trial team won a defense verdict in Washington State for a heavy equipment manufacturer. Our team convinced the jury that the potential levels of asbestos exposure to bystanders caused by work on engine gaskets were insufficient to cause or contribute to the development of mesothelioma. Contributing to the defense verdict was a pretrial ruling which granted our client’s Frye challenge to the admissibility of certain causation opinions by plaintiff’s expert Samuel Hammar, MD. This ruling precluded him from testifying that every exposure to every asbestos-containing product was a substantial contributing factor – i.e., a proximate cause – of decedent’s mesothelioma.  
  • At the beginning of another trial in Washington in February 2008, Sedgwick won a detailed ruling from the trial court granting our Frye challenge to the medical causation opinions of plaintiff’s experts Samuel Hammar, MD and Carl Brodkin, MD. The ruling precluded them from testifying that each exposure to an asbestos-containing product was a substantial contributing factor of plaintiff’s mesothelioma. Following the court’s ruling, plaintiff dismissed our client.
  • Among Sedgwick’s many successful summary judgment motions in asbestos cases is one we obtained in June 2007 on the ground that our client, an equipment manufacturer, could not be held liable for replacement parts which it did not design, manufacture or distribute.
  • Sedgwick obtained a defense verdict in San Francisco Superior Court for a Fortune 100 company. Claims stated that a certain plastic product allegedly used in the production of scientific research equipment caused the mesothelioma of a production worker. After an eight-week trial, our client received a defense verdict.