A former Baldwin Park city councilman and his wife were awarded $48 million by a Los Angeles jury, which found several companies liable for the cancer he contracted due to asbestos exposure during years of working in the construction industry, the couple's attorney said Thursday.
In finding in favor of 86-year-old Bobbie Izell and his wife, jurors last week awarded the couple $30 million in compensatory damages. They also found that Union Carbide Corp. acted with malice and ordered that company to pay an additional $18 million to the Izells, according to their attorney, John Langdoc.
The verdict is the largest of its kind in the nation this year, he said.
Their negligence lawsuit was filed last September against Union Carbide and other firms, including California Portland Cement Co. and Riverside Cement.
Izell worked from 1947 to 1980 as a cement contractor and construction superintendent in such locations as Baldwin Park, Los Angeles and Riverside, his attorney said.
Izell was involved in the building of hundreds of homes and commercial buildings, as well as some churches, while using the companies' products containing asbestos, according to the lawsuit.
Izell also bought properties during the same time period and used products containing asbestos to remodel those structures, according to the complaint. He found out last July that he has asbestos cancer, which is formally known as malignant mesothelioma, according to Langdoc.
Izell and his wife, who alleged loss of consortium, moved to Arkansas after he resigned from the city council in 1993.
Langdoc said the former councilman sleeps 12 to 15 hours daily, but manages to keep up his spirits.
"He's a fighter, he's doing his best,'' the attorney said. "The asbestos companies abjectly refused to admit that their products are causing cancer. But we discovered not only that their products caused cancer but that they also spent millions hiding that fact.''
Efforts to reach Union Carbide after business hours were unsuccessful.
During the six-week trial, Union Carbide presented numerous expert witnesses who argued that its asbestos, trade named ``Calidria asbestos,'' did not cause cancer, Langdoc said. But confidential internal memos revealed that even Union Carbide staff physicians reprimanded the marketing and sales groups for telling customers its asbestos did not cause disease, according to Langdoc.
Riverside Cement and California Portland Cement also hired expert witnesses to testify that the amount of asbestos released from their products was trivial, Langdoc said. However, bags of their construction products were scientifically shown to have quadrillions of fibers of asbestos, according to Langdoc.
"The jury awarded punitive damages against Union Carbide of $1 million dollars for each year that it continued to supply asbestos after a 1967 internal memo where the company admitted that asbestos caused cancers, even after brief exposures,'' Langdoc said.