Fresno County Supreme Court Awards $10.9 Million to Victim’s Family in First Mesothelioma Verdict

On June 2, the family of James Phillips, a deceased auto mechanic and plumber, was awarded a $10.9 million verdict after six days of jury deliberation, marking the first mesothelioma verdict in the county’s Superior Court. The amount breaks down to $7.4 million in compensatory damages and $3.5 million in punitive damages caused by the defendant’s “reckless indifference.”

Mr. Phillips was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma in March, 2012. He filed a lawsuit against Fortune 500 company Honeywell just two months later. Honeywell’s predecessor, Bendix, which Honeywell purchased in the late ’80s, manufactured asbestos-containing automotive parts. For decades, Mr. Phillips handled Bendix-branded brake pads and linings while working on cars, racecars, trucks, and other heavy equipment, never realizing that he was being exposed to deadly toxins. Despite receiving treatment for his aggressive cancer, Mr. Phillips passed away approximately one year after his diagnosis. He was 59 years old.

“We applaud the jury for holding Bendix accountable for its role in causing the nightmare the Phillips family has been living since Jim’s diagnosis,” said Rob Green, one of the Phillips family’s attorneys. “How many men like [Mr. Phillips] spent time as a teenager working part-time at a service station or doing shade-tree work on their cars? This was a virtual rite of passage in our car-crazed nation in the 1950s, through the ’70s. Unfortunately, this little slice of Americana had deadly consequences for [Mr. Phillips] and many others because of the asbestos that manufacturers like Bendix included in their products.”

Exposure to asbestos is the primary cause of mesothelioma, and inhaling the harmful fibers can also lead to numerous other respiratory health problems. Although asbestos was banned in the ’70s, there are still approximately 3,000 mesothelioma diagnoses made each year.

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