Bergman Draper Ladenburg (now Bergman Draper Oslund): “Take Home” Asbestos Victim Awarded $3.5 Million
Published: Apr 22, 2015 6:51 p.m. ET
SEATTLE, April 22, 2015 /PRNewswire/ — A King County Superior Court jury this week awarded the estate of Barbara Brandes, wife of a Puget Sound area refinery worker, $3.5 million after concluding that the asbestos her husband carried home on his clothing was the cause of the 80 year-old woman’s fatal lung condition that lead to her death earlier this month.
The unanimous jury found that Brand Insulations Inc. was responsible for Brandes’ malignant pleural mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive form of cancer that destroys the lining of the lungs and is most commonly caused by regular contact with asbestos. Mesothelioma can develop up to 50 years after having contact with asbestos.
Brandes attended many of the court proceedings, wheelchair-bound by her advanced mesothelioma, but ultimately succumbed to the disease Sunday, the day before closing arguments of her case. Her husband, who suffered from asbestosis – a non-malignant asbestos-caused condition – had died earlier this year.
The jury’s award is the largest in Washington state history of cases involving “take home” asbestos contamination, where a worker inadvertently contaminates others through clothing or other material.
Brandes was a Tacoma homemaker and a licensed practical nurse for most of her married life, and routinely laundered her husband Raymond Brandes clothes, who worked at the ARCO Cherry Point refinery in Ferndale, Washington, where he was in regular contact with asbestos insulation, which often covered his clothes.
“Neither Raymond nor anyone else working with asbestos thought for a moment that they would be putting anyone at risk by simply coming home from work, dusty and dirty from a hard day’s labor,” said Matthew Bergman, founding partner, and Brandes’ attorney. “While men like Raymond would certainly accept some personal risk when working in inherently dangerous industrial settings like refineries, they would have never knowingly put their families at risk, as they did.”
“The court ruled in a strong, unified voice that Brands Insulation’s actions were wrong, and it should be held accountable for the actions that led to Barbara’s death.” Bergman added.
Raymond Brandes’ duties at the refinery included maintenance of thermal asbestos pipe insulation with products sold by Brand Insulations. The suit claims the company was negligent in failing to warn workers like Raymond Brandes of the hazards of asbestos, among other charges.
The suit was filed in August 2014, and named seven defendants, all of which except Brand Insulation settled with the plaintiffs prior to trial.
“My mother was so passionate about this. Every day she valiantly fought this case and her illness for the justice she and my father deserved,” said Brandes’ daughter, Ramona Brandes, a King County senior public defender. “She would have loved to see the jury return with this unanimous verdict.”
Under the law, civil cases such as this need 10 jurors to find for the plaintiffs.
According to Bergman, Brandes’ case is an example of a growing population of second-hand victims of asbestos-related illnesses.
“We’ve seen tragic examples of workers’ wives contracting mesothelioma and other conditions through contact with clothing as we did with Barbara,” Bergman added. “What is more troubling is that we are now seeing the corollary with the children of these workers – people in their 30s and 40s are increasingly afflicted with this fatal condition.”
Bergman noted that population statistics show that the numbers of those affected and diagnosed with conditions caused by parents unknowingly causing asbestos contamination will grow over the coming years.
“The scourge of asbestos is long-lived and viciously efficient in striking people down, even 50 years later,” Bergman added.