$5 Million Verdict for Retired UA Local 290 Pipefitter in Mesothelioma Trial

Aug. 7, 2017 – On Friday, August 4, 2017, after a three-week trial and two days of deliberations, a Multnomah County jury returned a verdict against John Crane Inc., an asbestos packing and gasket manufacturer. The jury decided unanimously that John Crane, Inc. was negligent, that its asbestos-containing products were defective in design, and that it failed to warn. The jury assessed $1.93 million in total non-economic damages for Robert and Bonnie Sprague and $813,853 in economic damages. The jury also found that the defendant corporation showed a reckless and outrageous indifference to a highly unreasonable risk of harm and assessed $3 million dollars in punitive damages against John Crane, Inc.

In May 2015, Mr. Sprague was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a debilitating and fatal cancer of the lining of the lung, and has been battling the disease ever since. From 1960 to 1964, Mr. Sprague served for four years in the U.S. Navy. Mr. Sprague then worked as a pipe fitter from 1965 to 1987 in Oregon and Boston. Throughout this time, he worked with asbestos-containing John Crane asbestos packing and gasket materials, among other products.

At trial, plaintiffs presented evidence that John Crane knew by the 1930s that asbestos was deadly, yet neglected to test, research, or warn consumers of the hazards associated with its products for a period of over 50 years. The jury heard evidence that John Crane, Inc. did not begin testing its products until after it was named in lawsuits by asbestos victims.

Jennifer L. Alesio, Esq., who was an attorney with Brayton Purcell LLP, was trial counsel for the Spragues. “John Crane, Inc.’s defense relied heavily on misleading studies, funded by the asbestos industry, with the explicit purpose of misrepresenting the established science and medicine on this terrible disease,” said lead trial counsel, Jennifer Alesio, “It is my sincere hope that Bob and Bonnie will find some measure of comfort in knowing that this jury was not fooled and rendered justice.”

The trial, which began in July, was presided over by the Honorable Stephen K. Bushong, Multnomah Circuit Court. John Crane Inc. was represented at trial by Mark Tivin, Esq. of O’Connell, Tivin, Miller & Burns, LLC, and Rudy Lachenmeier, Esq. of Lachenmeier Enloe. The defendant was assessed 20% of the liability for the economic and non-economic damages.