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Robert W. Johnson & Associates was retained to provide economic testimony quantifying the present cash value of economic damages and punitive damages.

Location: Los Angeles, California

Case: Rhonda Evans and Bobby Evans, et al. v. A.W.
Chesterton Co., et al.

Court: Superior Court of Los Angeles, California, Case No. BC418867.

Plaintiff’s Attorneys: William Levin and partner Laurel Simes of Levin, Simes, Kaiser & Gornick, LLP, San Francisco, California.

Judge:  The Honorable Conrad Aragon.

Case Synopsis: Mrs. Evans contracted mesothelioma from the asbestos dust that her husband brought home on his work uniform every day during the early 1970s. At the time, Mr. Evans was an employee of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and his regular job duties included cutting asbestos cement pipe within both the City and County of Los Angeles.

Neither Mrs. Evans nor Mr. Evans was aware of the asbestos hazard at the time. CertainTeed manufactured the asbestos cement water pipe. CertainTeed knew about the risk of getting mesothelioma from the release of asbestos fibers while cutting its water pipe. CertainTeed also knew about the risk of getting mesothelioma when exposed in low doses and was aware of the risk to household members from exposure to clothes of family members working with their product. CertainTeed failed to warn users of the mesothelioma risk.

Mrs. Evans, in addition to caring for her husband, had taken on the task of raising her granddaughter after the death of her daughter. The granddaughter was a type II diabetic and required special monitoring to prevent her diabetes from becoming uncontrollable.

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Expert Testimony:In this case, Mr. Johnson was retained to testify regarding two elements of damages, compensatory and punitive.

First, Mr. Johnson testified as to Mrs. Evans’ loss of income, the value of her attendant care to her granddaughter and the loss of household services. Mr. Johnson calculated the present cash value of these damages to be between $800,000 and $1,050,000 over Mrs. Evan’s normal life expectancy.

Compensatory Result: On April 28, 2010, after nearly a four week trial, the jury returned a verdict of $6.8 million for Mrs. Evans and $2 million for loss of consortium for Mr. Evans.

Punitive Damages Testimony: Mr. Johnson was then asked to return the day after the verdict to testify as to punitive damages. In this phase, Mr. Johnson’s primary task was to frame, in economic terms, the “financial condition” of CertainTeed Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Saint-Gobain. The term “financial condition” encompasses the areas of financial health, wealth and economic status.

CertainTeed never provided financial statements that would have allowed Mr. Johnson to opine as to their complete financial condition, so he had to look to the financial statements of the parent company, Saint-Gobain. In reviewing Saint-Gobain’s financials, none of CertainTeed’s financial statements (balance sheet, income statement, etc.) were delineated in Saint-Gobain’s consolidated financials. But through rigorous digging in Saint-Gobain’s financial documents, Mr. Johnson was successful in finding two critical financial elements that applied to CertainTeed Corporation.

First, in 2008 CertainTeed had approximately $3 billion in Sales or more than $8.0 million per day. Second, Saint-Gobain had a “Reserve for Asbestos Related Claims Against CertainTeed” of more than $500 million in 2008 and 2009.

Mr. Johnson explained to the jury what this meant was that Saint-Gobain had acknowledged and put aside a half billion dollar asbestos reserve for potential future settlements of and judgments against CertainTeed.

After Mr. Johnson had testified as to the punitive damages, the jury deliberated for just a few hours before returning a $200 million verdict for the plaintiffs. This was the fourth largest jury verdict of 2010.

Attorney’s Comments:  According to plaintiffs’ counsel William Levin, “Mr. Johnson was provided with very little as to CertainTeed’s financials. Parent companies are strategically not supplying the financials of their wholly-owned subsidiaries so that the juries can not accurately assess a complete picture of their wealth. After doing his due diligence, Mr. Johnson found just the wrinkle he needed in finding a footnote in Saint-Gobain’s 2009 financial statements that put CertainTeed’s wealth into perspective for the jury. Saint-Gobain was able to put aside over a half billion dollars in a ‘Reserve for Asbestos Related Claims Against CertainTeed in 2008 and 2009’. I really think this really sealed the fate for CertainTeed and their parent Saint-Gobain”.