A King County jury has awarded $3.5 million to the estate of a woman who died from mesothelioma.
Ramona Brandes has distinct memories from her childhood of her mother, Barbara, shaking chunks of dusty debris from her father’s clothing after he returned home from work at the ARCO Cherry Point refinery in Ferndale, Whatcom County, where he was exposed to asbestos.
Her father, Raymond Brandes, died in January of a number of illnesses, including asbestosis — a nonmalignant asbestos-caused condition. Her mother, who was diagnosed with mesothelioma last summer, died on April 19, the day before her lawyers presented closing arguments in her lawsuit against Brand Insulations.
Last Tuesday, a jury awarded the estate of Barbara Brandes $3.5 million after finding Brand liable of negligence, said Matthew Bergman, who represented Barbara Brandes.
Bergman said that the jury’s award is the largest in Washington state history of cases involving “take-home” asbestos contamination, where a worker inadvertently contaminates others through clothing or other material.
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David Shaw, who represented Brand Insulations in the two-week trial, said the case is not yet over. He said the verdict and all of the issues surrounding the trial will be reviewed by King County Superior Court Judge William Downing on June 5.
“If Brand does not get relief we would anticipate an appeal,” Shaw said.
Ramona Brandes, a well-known King County public defender, said that when her father worked at the refinery he had no idea he was exposing his wife and their eight children to toxins.
“ARCO, when they built the [Cherry Point] refinery, put in four showers for over 200 workers. You would have to wait hours to take a shower after a shift,” Ramona Brandes said. “My dad didn’t and they did not provide any laundry service.”
Ramona Brandes said that when her father came home in his work clothes, “My mom would shake out the big bits of dust, the asbestos that is harmful you can’t see it, you can’t smell it, you can’t taste it. She would wash his clothes and sweep up the laundry room.”
Ramona Brandes said her mother started feeling sick in February 2014, complaining of exhaustion and other ailments. Four months later she was diagnosed with mesothelioma and was given a year to live.
Barbara and Raymond Brandes filed a lawsuit in August against seven defendants: ARCO, Brand Insulations, Kaiser Gypsum, Hanson Permanente Cement, Metalclad Insulation, Metropolitan Life Insurance, and Union Carbide.
Bergman’s firm, in the lawsuit, said the defendants “and/or their predecessors -in-interests” had “manufactured, sold or distributed asbestos-containing products or products that were used in conjunction with asbestos.”
The lawsuit accused the defendants of negligence, conspiracy, willful or wanton misconduct and product liability.
All of the defendants, except Brand Insulations, settled with the family for an undisclosed amount, Bergman said.
Even when she was feeling terrible, Barbara Brandes attended the court hearings just before her death at 80 years of age.
“ I thought we would have her so much longer than this. I didn’t expect her to go so quick,” said Ramona Brandes.