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San Francisco Jury Awards $5.1 Million to Retired NavyMan With Lung Disease in Case Tried by...

In the largest verdict of its kind in San Francisco, a jury has awarded a 51-year-old veteran and his wife $5.1 million.
The San Francisco Superior Court jury on Tuesday found that the maker of asbestos-filled gaskets and packings, John Crane Co., made defective products that failed to perform safely and caused Charles Hicks to contract a fatal lung disease.

Hicks, who was a machinist aboard submarines that were serviced in the San Francisco Bay Area, has mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of his lung.
The jury, at the end of a five-week trial, awarded Mr. Hicks $1.8 million in economic damages plus $2.5 million for pain and suffering. The jury also awarded his wife, Shirlene Hicks, $800,000 for loss of consortium.

Charles and Shirlene Hicks live in Idaho Falls where Hicks works at a nuclear testing facility, Lockheed Martin Idaho National Engineering Environmental Lab. The Hicks will soon be moving to Phoenix to live near their children.

The jury's award for compensatory damages is the largest in an asbestos case in San Francisco, said Harry Wartnick, partner in the San Francisco firm Wartnick, Chaber, Harowitz, Smith & Tigerman. Trial attorney Stephen Tigerman said, "Mr. Hicks gave the first 20 years of his adult life to this country only now to find out that a defective product has robbed him of the rest." Tigerman, a partner at the Wartnick Chaber firm, called Hicks "a victim of peace time."

Hicks was a machinist in the U.S. Navy from 1965 to 1985 and was a chief petty officer when he retired. Other makers of asbestos products have already settled with Hicks. The lone defendant to go to trial was the Morton Grove, Ill.-based John Crane Co., which has a national policy of not settling asbestos cases. The jury found thatJohn Crane was 20 percent at fault, which brings the company's share of the verdict to about $2 million, said Wartnick.

The case was tried by Tigerman before San Francisco Superior Court Judge John Dearman. Defense counsel were Freman Cullom of Cullom, Burland, Bacon & Overpeck in San Francisco and Margaret Byrne of Daniel J. O'Connell & Associates of Elgin, Ill