Late Retention Does not Deter Selman Breitman Trial Team from Notching Another Win in an Asbestos Cancer Trial
Plaintiff Marline Petitpas is 64-years old, and she is dying of mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of her left lung which she claims was caused by exposure to asbestos. Joseph Petitpas, her husband, is also a plaintiff, making a claim for the loss of consortium caused by the effects of his wife's disease.
The plaintiffs’ claim that Mrs. Petitpas was secondarily exposed to asbestos fibers carried on Mr. Petitpas clothes from his work for Selman Breitman’s client, Rossmoor Corporation, in the early 1970s. At the time Rossmoor was building Laguna Hills Leisure World and Mr. Petitpas worked for Rossmoor. The Petitpas plaintiffs came into trial seeking over $3.5 million in economic damages and many millions more in non-economic damages.
Partners Brad Bleichner and Jerry Popovich led the Rossmoor trial team, after taking on the representation of Rossmoor only five weeks before the start of the preferentially set trial, at the request of Fireman's Fund Ins. Co. The defense initially focused on the new Campbell v. Ford California appellate case, which states that a defendant does not owe a duty to a family member of an employee who becomes the conduit for a secondary exposure. As a result of this new case, and after the trial began, the plaintiffs changed the focus of their case against Rossmoor Corporation, testifying for the first time that Mrs. Petitpas had direct exposure to asbestos when she walked through Leisure World units during construction. Additionally, they alleged strict liability against Rossmoor to also try to get around Campbell, by claiming Rossmoor was the manufacturer of mass produced homes. This required a great deal of flexibility from the Rossmoor trial team, as it was constantly dealing with a moving target.
Facing a settlement demand of over seven figures, the Selman Breitman team began trial in the downtown Los Angeles branch of the Superior Court in late June. The plaintiffs were represented by Simona Farrise and Tony Vieira, two experienced and successful asbestos trial lawyers. After 11 days of trial, and after the plaintiffs completed their evidence, a motion for nonsuit was argued by Brad and Jerry for over an hour, and the trial judge ultimately ruled in favor of Rossmoor Corporation.
In addition to the claims against Rossmoor, plaintiffs also claimed that Mr. Petitpas did brake and gasket work with asbestos-containing products, and some of this work was in the presence of Mrs. Petitpas. Mrs. Petitpas also claims to asbestos exposure at her family homes.
The other three defendants in the case had their nonsuit motions denied or delayed, and the trial continues against them.