• Asbestos Litigation History Part 4 Fraud and Conspiracy Open Floodgates of Asbestos Litigation and Reversals of Worker's Comp Limitations on Employees' rights to Sue Employers

    Part 4 of the Beginning of Asbestos Litigation: Fraud and Conspiracy Open Floodgates of Asbestos Litigation and Reversals of Worker's Comp Limitations on Employees' rights to Sue Employers

    For More on the Story, Read The Rest of the Asbestos Litigation Story at:

    Part 5 of the Beginning of Asbestos Litigation

    January of 1978 brought a legal deposition which was recorded during discovery in this lawsuit. In the deposition, Wilbur Ruff, of Pittsburg, California’s Johns-Manville plant manager from the ‘60s, received the query as to whether there was a Johns-Manville if corporate policy that they not speak wioth the employees regarding medical chest findings, which medical findings suggested the disease asbestosis, or pneumoconiosis and especially the now-named mesothelioma. In the deposition, Ruff declared under oath that it was corporate policy. This quiet company policy was introduced as trial evidence regarding the conspiracy on the part of company executives and the clear fraud which began to emerge.

    At the same time, multiple damaging documents which incriminated Johns-Manville came to light proving fraud as well as intense and horrifyingly sickening levels of corporate conspiracy. Some of the personal documents of the Raybestos Manhattan president, Sumner Simpson documented correspondence with general counsel Vandiver Brown of Johns-Manville. The communication disclosed that as early as 1930, these corporations had documented conspiracy in the suppression of medical knowledge into the asbestos hazards for industrial workers. These companies moved to place profits ahead of the safety of workers.

    This conspiratorial correspondence was sought and in so doing, original documents which had Vandiver Brown’s signature were sought. Although Johns-Manville continually asserted under oath Brown had died, a private investigator was hired to obtain copies of Brown’s will as well as his death certificate in order to confirm and validate signatures on correspondence. It was hoped that these family documents could enable an authentication of Vandiver Brown's own personal signature. But the private investigator instead discovered that Vandiver Brown hadn't died, but instead still was very much alive and living in Waco, TX, even continuing to be a paying member inside of the New York Bar. Ultimately, although Brown ended up being declared incompetent of giving a deposition, the legal guardian under deposition authenticated Vandiver Brown's legal and personal signature found in the correspondence with Sumner Simpson.

    November of 1981 brought the lawsuit filed by Steven Kazan on behalf of Reba Rudkin’s coworker Bob Speake. Major legal victory now won against Johns-Manville brought a different climate because of the Supreme Court of California’ ruling that declared that workers had the right to sue employers if circumstances showed deception, fraud, and/or conspiracy on the part of the employer. This ruling enabled Speake along with additional Pittsburg plant, California industrial workers to move forward with their lawsuits in civil court against their employer, Johns-Manville. February of 1982 brought a Kazan verdict totally $150,000 on behalf of Speake against the former employer Johns-Manville.

    This lawsuit marked what has been described as a tipping point in asbestos litigation due to the fact that it parented punitive damage awards from verdicts adversely impacting Johns-Manville. Then, more asbestos lawsuits were queued up against Johns-Manville on behalf of their former industrial workers. And with these cases filed and moving toward trial, a setback came in August of ’82 as Johns-Manville sought Chapter 11 protection in avoidance of compensation of the victims as disease continued to grow and victim lists grew from exposure to Johns-Manville asbestos-containing products.

    For the Previous Part of the Story, Read The Previous Asbestos Litigation Article at:

    Part 3 of the Beginning of Asbestos Litigation: Introduction of Strict Liability into Legal System via Mesothelioma Asbestos Claims
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