IADC member Bob Remond, Partner at McGuireWoods LLP, recently represented Ford Motor Company in a wrongful death case and successfully obtained a defense verdict.
Beginning in the 1990s, Ford and other automobile manufacturers faced lawsuits from mechanics and others in the automotive industry claiming that asbestos in brakes caused the fatal cancer, mesothelioma. Donna Walls, the widow of John Walls, filed such a suit against Ford in New Castle County (Wilmington) Delaware in January 2014. She claimed that Ford’s negligent use of asbestos in brakes and its failure to warn of the hazards of asbestos caused her husband John, a career auto mechanic, to die from mesothelioma. Ms. Walls also sued several other automotive companies and automotive parts manufacturers. Mr. Walls was 58 years old when he died and was the owner of a chain of service stations in Milford and Seaford, Delaware. He had been married to Donna Walls for 28 years and he left behind a son and two step-daughters. He had been working full time at his companies until two weeks before his death.
The parties engaged in two years of discovery and pre-trial proceedings. Through this process, the number of defendants was whittled down by dismissals, summary judgment, and settlements. By April 2016, Ford was the sole defendant. Plaintiff made a statutory demand of $1,999,999.
Ford and the plaintiffs went to trial from June 13, 2016 until June 29, 2016. Plaintiff called several fact witnesses and the following expert witnesses: Dr. Arnold Brody, Professor, Emeritus, Tulane University,(cell biology); Dr. John Maddox, Riverside Hospital, Newport News, Virginia (pathology); Dr. William Kunitz, Rockville Maryland (warnings); Dr. Barry Castleman (state of the art); Dr. Francis Tannian (economics); and Dr. Candace Tsai, Colorado State University (industrial hygiene). Ford called the following expert witnesses: Dr. David Garabrant, Professor, Emeritus, University of Michigan (epidemiology); Dr. Mary Beth Beasley, Mt. Sinai Hospital (pathology); and Dr. Dennis Paustenbach (industrial hygiene).
The jury retired for deliberation on June 29, 2016 and returned a verdict for Ford. The jury found that Ford was not negligent.
Ford was represented at trial byIADC member Robert F. Redmond, Jr., McGuireWoods LLP, Richmond, Virginia and Rochelle Gumapac, White and Williams, Wilmington, Delaware.
Plaintiffs were represented at trial by Thomas Crumplar and David Crumplar of Jacobs & Crumplar, Wilmington, Delaware.