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Asbestos Victim’s Survivors Awarded $11 Million by California Jury

The family of a 68-year old mesothelioma victim who had already been awarded nearly $4 million dollars in a personal injury lawsuit resolved three years ago was recently awarded $11 million dollars in a wrongful death lawsuit that they filed subsequently.

The victim, Gordon Bankhead, was an auto parts worker who had spent the years from 1965 through 1999 servicing heavy duty vehicles. He had worked for several different employers, and was diagnosed with mesothelioma in January 2010. It was determined that his exposure to asbestos dust was the result of having worked with vehicle brake parts, which he had spent much of his work life working with. The brakes contained asbestos, and in his duties inspecting the brakes and replacing or grinding them, asbestos dust fell out and he inhaled it.

The personal injury case had resolved over several months in 2010 and 2011, with an initial liability phase and punitive damages phase following. A jury had decided against Pneumo Abex LLC, the successor of Abex Corporation, determining that the company had defectively designed their brakes and had been aware of the dangers of asbestos and had withheld the information from Bankhead. Also named in the suit had been brake shoe manufacturers and Bankhead’s employers; each defendant was apportioned a percentage of liability. Later the auto mechanic was also awarded $9 million dollars in punitive damages, which Pneumo Abex appealed but the decision was upheld.

Following Bankhead’s death, the auto mechanic’s widow and daughters filed a separate lawsuit against the companies for wrongful death in June of 2012.  In the new trial the jury spent less than two hours in making their determination of how much each family member should be compensated for the loss of Mr. Bankhead nearly two decades short of his life expectancy. Pneumo Abex was not provided an opportunity to present any kind of argument against their own responsibility for Bankhead’s death in the wrongful death suit, nor was the jury informed of the amounts of the previous verdicts in the personal injury lawsuit.

The wrongful death verdict was divided between Bankhead’s wife Emily and their daughters, with Emily receiving $6 million dollars and Tammy Banhead and Debbie Bankhead-Meiers, Bankhead’s adult daughters, each receiving 2.5 million in consideration of the loss of their father.

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