SEATTLE, Dec. 15, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- A King County jury today awarded a Vashon, Wash., man and his wife $1.45 million after he was diagnosed with mesothelioma caused by exposure to asbestos during his maritime career on a ship owned and operated by the defendant, Residual Holdings, successor to Sea-Land Service, Inc.
Roger E. Hammett, Jr., 84, served as a messman aboard the SS SEATTLE for 67 days in 1966 and was exposed to asbestos fibers from pipe insulation that was being stripped from steam pipes during the voyage. Due to his exposure, he developed mesothelioma, a rare cancer in the lining of protective tissue around the lungs.
Sea-Land was found liable for negligence for allowing Hammett to work in conditions that exposed him to asbestos, which had been linked to several deadly diseases by 1966, including mesothelioma. Labor and health regulations and standards at the time advised employers to close off construction areas, ventilate the site or at least provide respirators and protective clothing to employees. Sea-Land failed to do so much as warn employees of the danger.
"This was a very hard-fought, bitter case, and one of Roger's deepest wishes was to live to see the day when those responsible would be held accountable for their negligence and lack of concern for the safety of employees," said Hammett's attorney, Matthew Bergman, of Bergman, Draper & Frockt. "Sea-Land had only offered $5,000 before the trial, and we didn't think that was a fair settlement for Roger and his family. He and his wife feel relieved and vindicated by the jury's decision."
Hammett originally brought suit against several shipping companies and the Washington State Ferries in March 2011 and was granted an expedited trial date due to his terminal condition. The claims against other shipping companies were dismissed for jurisdictional reasons, and the Washington State Ferries settled for a confidential amount.
Hammett is undergoing palliative care to treat mesothelioma and is currently in the terminal stages of the disease. He was diagnosed in September 2010 and has been undergoing treatment ever since. Once diagnosed, patients often have only months to live.
According to Bergman, Hammett's injury is not uncommon, with King County reporting the fourth-highest rate of asbestos-related deaths in the nation.
"The truly unfortunate reality is that we will see more and more of these cases," he added. "Mesothelioma can take 30 or even 50 years to become symptomatic after exposure, and the Puget Sound was central to our nation's shipping industry during the time when asbestos was commonly used."
Hammett was awarded damages for pain, suffering, disability and loss of enjoyment of life. He has five children and eight grandchildren.
"There is nothing we can do to return what Sea-Land took from Roger and his family," said Bergman. "But we hope this verdict helps ease their pain and sends a very strong message to employers everywhere that employee safety and health should not take a backseat to anything."
About Bergman, Draper & Frockt
Bergman, Draper & Frockt is a Seattle-based law firm that focuses on representing individuals and families who have been harmed by more powerful interests. The firm built its reputation on serious asbestos disease claims and is expanding its practice to benzene and predatory lending cases. Matthew Bergman is the firm's managing partner and one of seven lawyers across the nation who negotiated a $4 billion national settlement with the Halliburton Corporation for its asbestos liabilities, approximately $30 million of which went to Bergman, Draper & Frockt clients residing primarily in the Pacific Northwest.
Matthew Bergman (206) 200-2606
Bergman, Draper & Frockt
Mark Firmani (206) 443-9357
Firmani + Associates, Inc.
SOURCE Bergman, Draper & Frockt