Asbestos Exposure in Paper Mill Contributor to Mesothelioma Diagnosis

Jury Assesses a $10.2 Million Verdict for Retired Washington Paper Mill Worker Suffering from Mesothelioma

Seattle, WA — November 19, 2009 — On Wednesday, November 19, 2009, after three days of deliberations, a federal jury in Seattle, Washington found in favor of Henry Barabin, a retired Crown Zellerbach Paper Mill worker suffering from mesothelioma. Mr. Barabin and his wife, Geraldine, were represented by James P. Nevin and Cameron O. Carter of Brayton Purcell LLP.

The trial against Scapa Dryer Fabrics, Inc. and AstenJohnson Inc., two former manufacturers of asbestos-containing dryer fabrics used on paper machines, centered around the issues of product liability design defect, products liability failure to warn, and negligence. The jury determined that both Scapa Dryer Fabrics, Inc. and AstenJohnson Inc.’s asbestos-containing dryer fabrics were defectively designed, defective for failure to include any warning of hazards and that both defendants were negligent.

The jury assessed $700,000 in economic damages for medical expenses, loss of household services, and loss of future income, $8,000,000 in non-economic damages, and $1,500,000 for Mrs. Barabin’s loss of consortium. Under applicable Washington law, both defendants are jointly liable for the full amount—$10,200,000—of the verdict.

Workplace Asbestos Exposure the Cause of Mesothelioma

Mr. Barabin worked as a laborer at the Texaco Refinery in Port Arthur, Texas from 1964–1968. From 1968 to 2001, he worked at the Crown Zellerbach paper mill in Camas, Washington as a pulp tester, paper tester, spare hand, fifth hand, fourth hand, third hand, winderman, and filterman. He retired in 2001 and moved to Sun City, Arizona.

In 2006, Mr. Barabin was diagnosed with mesothelioma, an asbestos-caused cancer of the pleura, the organ that protects the lungs. Since diagnosis, he has undergone surgery, fluid drainage, pleurodesis, three rounds of chemotherapy, and many imaging tests during his battle with this fatal disease.

During his career at the plant from 1968 until he transferred to a newly constructed building in 1984, Mr. Barabin was exposed to dust released from the asbestos-containing dryer fabrics during normal operation, handling, replacement, disposal, and clean up. In addition to simply being present on a daily basis in the contaminated plant, one of Mr. Barabin’s jobs was to clean out the paper machine’s dryer fabrics on a daily basis, during maintenance and dryer fabric replacement shutdowns. All these activities exposed Mr. Barabin to asbestos dust from Scapa Dryer Fabrics, Inc. and AstenJohnson Inc. products as well as other point sources.

Defendants Maintain Products Were Safe, Evidence at Trial Showed Otherwise

Scapa Dryer Fabrics, Inc. and AstenJohnson Inc. supplied asbestos-containing dryer fabrics without warning of any hazard for use on the paper machines at the Camas, WA plant up until 1980 when they ceased putting asbestos in the fabrics. Both defendants claimed that their products did not release asbestos because they were often wet and that the asbestos was encapsulated within the material. They contended their products were safe and did not require any warnings.

At trial, plaintiffs presented evidence demonstrating that when used as intended, hazardous levels of respirable asbestos dust was released from Scapa Dryer Fabrics, Inc. and AstenJohnson Inc.’s asbestos-containing dryer fabrics.

By 1968, it was firmly established in medicine and science that asbestos dust caused asbestosis, pleural disease, lung cancer, and mesothelioma. Yet, Scapa Dryer Fabrics, Inc. and AstenJohnson Inc. supplied their defective asbestos-containing fabrics without any testing or warnings. Plaintiffs demonstrated that asbestos dust from both defendants’ products contributed to cause Mr. Barabin’s mesothelioma.

“When Henry Barabin was working around this deadly material, he had no idea that it could one day cause him to develop a fatal cancer. The jury appreciated that wet or dry, new or used, resin-treated or not, open or closed weave, that the dryer fabrics released asbestos dust, which contributed to the total dose of asbestos that Mr. Barabin breathed, causing his mesothelioma and his pending premature death.” said James P. Nevin, counsel for Henry and Geraldine Barabin.

Defendant Scapa Dryer Fabrics, Inc. was represented by Lane Young, Elizabeth O’Neil, and Christopher Collier of Hawkins & Parnell LLP, and Lisa Williams and Jane Kirkwood of Williams Kastner LLP. AstenJohnson Inc. was represented at trial by Forrest Ren Wilkes of Foreman Perry Watkins Krutz & Tardy LLP, and Bill Shaw and Martha Rodriguez Lopez of K&L Gates LLP.

The trial began on October 26, 2009 and was presided over by Chief United States District Court Judge Robert S. Lasnik in Department 15128 of the United States District Court, Western District of Washington, Seattle, Washington (Case No.C 07-01454-RSL). The jury was empaneled, opening statements were presented, and the jury heard all the evidence. Closing summations were given on November 16, 2009 and the jury reached its verdict on November 19, 2009.

Rather than pay the judgment, the defendants appealed. Mr. Barabin managed to beat the odds and bravely fought his mesothelioma for a long time before finally passing away on March 30, 2012. After several years waiting for the appeal to be decided, on January 15, 2014, based on the defendant’s erroneous claim that the trial judge failed to make a complete Daubert record regarding plaintiff’s experts, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal reversed the $10.2 million verdicts and remanded the case back to the trial court for a new trial. The new trial is pending.