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An Alameda County, Calif., jury reached a $20 million verdict for a man who spent 41 years working around asbestos, but because half the liability was placed on a now-bankrupt company, the man was actually awarded $10 million. The verdict in Hardcastle v. J-M A/C Pipe Corp., 830058-2, may be one of the largest for a single-victim asbestos case — and it’s the biggest for a client of Oakland, Calif.-based Kazan, McClain, Edises, Simon & Abrams, said partner Francis Fernandez, who worked on the case. William Hardcastle — a 61-year-old man who worked in a Stockton plant that produced asbestos cement pipes — has terminal cancer, Fernandez said, but probably could have lived 20 more years if he hadn’t been exposed to the asbestos. Generally, jury verdicts are on the rise, said Dianna Lyons, a Kazan McClain partner who also worked on the case. However, she added, this case was particularly egregious. The company “knew that they were building something that had killed people.” Attorneys for the defendant, J-M A/C Pipe Corp., did not return calls for comment. Hardcastle had worked for plastic pipe maker J-M Manufacturing since 1959. The company shared its Stockton, Calif., plant with an asbestos cement pipe manufacturer, J-M A/C Pipe Corp. The two companies bought the facility from Johns Manville International Inc., a firm that filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1982 after it was hit with several asbestos suits. The jury assigned J-M A/C Pipe Corp. half of the liability and the rest to Johns Manville, although that company was not a party to the suit, said Lyons. Although its predecessor suffered big financial losses from asbestos litigation, “This company did not do more than Johns Manville did in the 70s,” Fernandez said. Hardcastle, who worked for the plastic pipe company in another part of the building, was eventually diagnosed with mesothelioma, a fatal cancer. Hardcastle’s attorneys filed a lawsuit in August 2000 alleging fraud and negligence. The jury did not find fraud, but determined that J-M A/C was negligent. The jury awarded Hardcastle $1.4 million in economic damages and $8.6 in pain and suffering. They gave $10 million to Hardcastle’s wife for loss of consortium, said Fernandez. Kazan McClain specializes in asbestos litigation and has won a string of hefty verdicts in the past year. That includes $6.8 million in a suit that was filed on behalf of Jeanette Franklin, a woman who was diagnosed with mesothelioma after childhood exposure to asbestos. Part of the trend in high jury verdicts can be attributed to Erin Brockovich, said Fernandez, referring to the legal clerk who took on PG&E and was portrayed in a movie. Juries perceive “that corporations don’t have a sense of corporate responsibility,” he said. The jury is expected to begin deliberations to determine punitive damages on Thursday, said Fernandez.

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