MRO Magazine

Bergman Draper Ladenburg: Oregon Jury Sets Record with $8.75 Million Award in Asbestos-Cancer Lawsuit

May 26, 2016
By Business Wire News


Bergman Draper Ladenburg today announced a landmark verdict in a lawsuit brought on behalf of David and Patricia Hoff of Beaverton, Oregon. Mr. Hoff was exposed to a deadly carcinogen in the 1970s when his work as a carpenter brought him into contact with asbestos-containing drywall joint cement during commercial construction projects.

In August 2015, three years after his retirement, Mr. Hoff was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lung. Mesothelioma does not present until decades after initial exposure. The disease is caused by breathing microscopic asbestos fibers and even short exposures can cause cancer many years later. Mesothelioma is not curable and, despite aggressive treatment, Mr. Hoff was too ill to testify at trial.

The jury found Kaiser Gypsum, the manufacturer of the joint cement, negligent in failing to warn workers about the dangers of asbestos used in their products. The jury also found Kaiser Gypsum strictly liable for the sale of a defective, unreasonably dangerous product. Three other companies involved with similar products reached out of court settlements before the case was submitted to the jury for deliberation.

Bergman Draper Ladenburg’s trial team of Brian Ladenburg, Craig Sims and Kaitlin Wright began working with the Hoffs during the fall of 2015 and noted the decision to go to trial reflected a tremendous commitment by the Hoff family. “The Hoffs wanted to ensure that companies realize they will be held accountable for exposing workers to toxic substances that cause cancer,” explained Craig Sims. “The jury reinforced this message, but nothing can make up for the negligent disregard for the lives of workers who used their products.”

Kaiser Gypsum manufactured asbestos-containing joint cement in their plant in Seattle, Washington. These products were banned by the Consumer Products Safety Commission in 1978 because of the health risks of high asbestos fiber release during their use. Evidence was presented at trial, however, showing that the company knew about the risks associated with asbestos at least a decade earlier. Internal Kaiser documents indicated that Kaiser was aware of the link between asbestos and mesothelioma as early as 1965, yet Kaiser never included the link to cancer on any warnings on its products and continued to sell them without a cancer warning until 1978.

Brian Ladenburg explained the critical importance of maintaining accountability of exposing workers to asbestos when such exposures were known to cause cancer, even though the exposures took place decades ago. New cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed at a rate of 2,500-3,000 per year, almost all associated with past asbestos exposure.

The victory was the result of a strong collaborative effort by the Bergman Draper Ladenburg trial team. Ladenburg and Sims tried the case with Bergman Draper Ladenburg attorney Kaitlin Wright over the course of three-and-a-half weeks before the Hon. Judith A. Matarazzo of the Multnomah County Circuit Court. All three attorneys played critical roles during a lengthy and challenging trial.

About Bergman Draper Ladenburg

Bergman Draper Ladenburg ( is a Pacific Northwest law firm with offices in Seattle and Portland that focuses on representing individuals and families who have been harmed by powerful interests. For more than 18 years it has protected the interests of asbestos victims in proceedings involving some of the largest manufacturers of asbestos products. The firm focuses on zealously advocating on behalf of cancer victims who were exposed to asbestos.

Firm founder Matthew Bergman was a top negotiator for two groundbreaking settlements: a nationwide $5.1 billion settlement with Owens Corning, of which $61 million was set aside for Puget Sound-area claimants; and a $4.3 billion settlement with Halliburton, which allotted $30 million for asbestos claimants in the region. For individual clients the firm has collected over $630 million in settlements and verdicts. Bergman Draper Ladenburg attorneys speak at national and international conferences and industry engagements on all areas of asbestos law.

Bergman Draper Ladenburg
Matthew Bergman, 206-957-9510
GreatWork Strategic Communications
Diane Aboulafia, 206-232-5160