Mesothelioma causes death of auto parts worker: $11 million gross verdict for family. Alameda County.


Decedent was exposed to asbestos dust through his work with vehicle brake parts.  This trial was for damages only.

The Case

  • Case Name: Emily Bankhead, Tammy Bankhead, and Debbie Bankhead-Meiers v. ArvinMeritor, Inc., et al.
  • Court and Case Number: Alameda County Superior Court / RG12632899
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Wednesday, January 15, 2014
  • Date Action was Filed: Friday, June 01, 2012
  • Type of Case: Asbestos, Toxins, Wrongful Death
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Jo-Lynne Q. Lee
  • Plaintiffs:
    Emily Bankhead, Tammy Bankhead, and Debbie Bankhead-Meiers, the widow and adult daughters (from a prior marriage), respectively, of Gordon Bankhead.
  • Defendants:
    Pneumo Abex LLC
    All other defendants resolved the case before trial.
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $11,000,000
  • Net Verdict or Award: $3,300,000
  • Contributory/Comparative Negligence: 30% liability.
  • Non-Economic Damages:

    Emily Bankhead: $6,000,000 gross

    Tammy Bankhead and Debbie Bankhead-Meiers: $2,500,000 gross each


  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 2 days.
  • Jury Deliberation Time: Less than 2 hours.

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:
    Kazan, McClain, Satterley & Greenwood by David McClain, Oakland.
  • Attorney for the Defendant:
    Brydon Hugo & Parker by John Brydon, San Francisco.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Experts:
  • Defendant's Medical Experts:
  • Plaintiff's Technical Experts:
  • Defendant's Technical Experts:

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    Gordon Bankhead worked from 1965 to 1999 in the service and repair of heavy duty vehicles as a parts man. He regularly handled asbestos-containing brakes, and was present for the inspection, replacement, grinding, and blowing out of asbestos-containing brakes. All of these activities caused him to breathe deadly asbestos dust. Defendant Pneumo Abex manufactured many of the brake linings Mr. Bankhead was exposed to.

    The instant trial was the second in regards to this family and this defendant.  The jury in the first trial, on liability, found Defendant Pneumo Abex 30% liable.

    Mr. and Mrs. Bankhead were represented in their first trial by Kazan, McClain, Satterley & Greenwood partners Joseph Satterley and Justin Bosl, and former partner Leigh Kirmsse. The jury awarded Mr. Bankhead $1,470,000 for his past and future economic loss, and $1,500,000 for his pain and suffering. The jury also awarded his wife, Emily Bankhead $1,000,000 for her loss of her husband’s support and companionship. The jury found that defendants’ actions were malicious, fraudulent, and/or oppressive and awarded $9,000,000 in punitive damages against Pneumo Abex. Pneumo Abex appealed the verdict, which was subsequently upheld.

    A prior jury had found that Pneumo Abex’s asbestos-containing brakes were defective, and that Pneumo Abex negligently, intentionally, and maliciously caused Mr. Bankhead’s mesothelioma, who died from the disease at age 68.

    Mr. Bankhead’s death gave rise to a new case to compensate his family for their loss of his companionship. In this second trial, which commenced January 13, 2014, Pneumo Abex was not allowed to dispute its responsibility for Mr. Bankhead’s death. The jury was not told the reasons for Pneumo Abex’s liability, nor were they told about the circumstances of Mr. Bankhead’s death. The jury was tasked with deciding the full amount of Mr. Bankhead’s widow’s and daughters’ losses due to his wrongful death 17 years before his life expectancy. The Bankheads did not seek funeral expenses and other economic damages.


  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    That defendant company's liability was the cause of wrongful death which led to the loss of companionship for family members of the decedent.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    Defendant did not dispute liability or suggest that plaintiffs not be reasonably and fairly compensated.  Defense counsel argued that the damages to the adult  children should be some amount less than for a surviving wife.  

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Loss of companioinship.

    Per plaintiff counsel: That he suggested that the award should exceed $10 million.

    Per defense counsel: Plaintiffs' counsel did not suggest a specific figure but did argue to the jury that any award to Mrs. Bankhead should be in 8 figures and at one point made an argument that the elements of a wrongful death claim could add up to as much as $18 million for Mrs. Bankhead

Demands and Offers

  • Plaintiff §998 Demand: Plaintiffs’ August 28, 2013 C.C.P. 998 demand was $2 million for Emily Bankhead, $500,000 each for Debbie Bankhead-Meiers and Tammy Bankhead.