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Four consolidated asbestos cases against manufacturers and suppliers of products that contain asbestos have been settled for $11.5 million. The cases were consolidated for trial because each of the four plaintiffs had mesothelioma, a form of cancer that occurs only in those exposed to asbestos. The disease has a latency period of 20 to 40 years and is typically characterized by tumors in the lungs. The settlement was made four days into the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas trial. Suit was filed against multiple defendants, including Amchem/Benjamin Foster Inc., Certainteed Corp. and Georgia-Pacific Corp. Amchem Inc. was dismissed before trial. All defendants named in the cases manufactured, distributed or supplied products that contained asbestos. Attorneys Benjamin P. Shein and Bethann P. Schaffzin of the Shein Law Center in Philadelphia represented the plaintiffs — Patricia Harahan for the estate of Bernard Harahan, John and Helen Hollingsworth, Joseph and June Toland, and Joseph Galada for the estate of his wife, Virginia Galada. Bernard Harahan was a 46-year-old former PECO worker at the time of his death. He began working for PECO after he graduated from high school in 1972 and became a steamfitter, an occupation that included regular exposure to asbestos. He was diagnosed with mesothelioma in January 2001 and died of the disease six months later. John Hollingsworth was a plumber who worked with asbestos at residential and commercial sites during his 45-year career. Part of a lung was removed in an attempt to treat the cancer. He continues to live with the disease. Joseph Toland, an electrician from 1946 to 1980, also worked at commercial and residential sites. He also had a portion of a lung removed. He must now use a wheelchair for mobility. Although most mesothelioma diagnoses are made for individuals who have been exposed to asbestos while on the job, Virginia Galada’s exposure was secondhand. Her husband was a plasterer for more than 30 years who worked with plaster containing asbestos. The compound dried onto his clothing. She would shake the clothing to remove as much asbestos plaster as possible before putting the clothing in the washing machine. Then she would sweep up the dust. In the fall of 1999, Galada was diagnosed with mesothelioma. She died 14 months later at age 77. Because mesothelioma usually occurs in those who have been occupationally exposed to asbestos, Shein said, the fact that Galada made the connection between doing her husband’s wash and her cancer helped get her case to trial. “The benefit between her being diagnosed and realizing the causal relationship early made it easy for us to work with her,” Shein said. “She made a detailed, videotaped testimony about laundering the clothing. Her husband gave a deposition on how the plaster would be used and how he would bring plaster-laden clothing home, so the story really fit very well together.” Shein said the defendants were ready to argue that the cause of Galada’s cancer was undetermined. “The problem they had was that when tried in conjunction with the other three cases, the jury would not believe that all four people got the same disease, and three, the defense admits, got it on the job, and the fourth, who worked with it in a non-occupational setting … that would be a very tough sell to the jury,” Shein said. The plaintiffs’ suits were brought under a products liability theory of alleged defects for failure to warn; specifically, that the manufacturers, distributors and suppliers of products containing asbestos should have warned of the dangers of asbestos. Shein and Schaffzin said the defendants knew of those dangers in the early 1900s but did not begin to warn of them until the 1970s. “We decided to settle during trial because the demands that we had made prior to trial were not only met during trial, they were exceeded,” Shein said. He said some claims against other defendants were either settled before trial or the defendants were dismissed from the suit. Several defendants also filed for bankruptcy before the cases reached trial. Bernard Harahan’s estate will receive more than $7 million of the settlement. Shein said Harahan, who was 46 at the time he died, is believed to be the youngest asbestos cancer victim in Philadelphia, and, therefore, he had a large future earnings capacity. Shein said the three other plaintiffs would receive $1 million to $1.5 million of the remaining amount of the settlement. Bernard Kuney of Wilbraham Lawler represented Georgia-Pacific in the Harahan and Galada cases and Certainteed in the Galada case. Kuney’s other clients in the cases were dismissed before trial. Kuney said that although there was some disagreement over liability and the value of the cases, both sides were able to reach an agreement. The consolidated cases did present a challenge in determining what evidence should be admitted at trial, he said. “It was unique the way that the individual cases were grouped,” he said. “You are not just trying one case; you have to consider what the evidence would be in one case and if the jury would consider that in the other case.” Other defendants included Mobil Oil Corp., Carlock Corp., Pecora Corp., Westinghouse Electric Corp., American Standard, Flintkote Co., General Electric Corp. and Pfizer Inc.

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