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Jury Awards $7M to Retired Banker Exposed to Asbestos Renovating Homes

Los Angeles jury awarded $7,042,300 on October 24 to a California banker who contracted mesothelioma from the asbestos contained in drywall joint compound in houses he was rehabbing.

Peter Lamonica was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma, a cancer caused by exposure asbestos, in October 2015 at the age of 71. A career banker, he had no idea how he was exposed to asbestos upon learning of his diagnosis.

He was represented by Scott Frost, Andrew Seitz, Rajeev Mittal and Caitlan Silhan of Waters Kraus & Paul, and Roger Worthington and John Caron of Worthington & Caron PC. The case is Lamonica v. Colgate-Palmolive, et al. (Los Angeles Superior Court Case Number BC604809).

Dust from "Fixer- Uppers"

By the early 1970s, Lamonica determined that his job at the bank would never provide the quality of life he sought for his family, which now included a daughter and son. He began a side business of purchasing and renovating residential properties. In the early years, Lamonica contributed the "sweat equity," doing all the renovation work himself.

Unbeknownst to Lamonica, the products he used renovating properties in the 1960s and 1970s (joint compound, caulk, stucco, roof cement, and decking material) contained asbestos. The toxic fibers lodged in his respiratory system triggering an inflammatory response which, over the following decades, resulted in a deadly tumor engulfing his right lung.

Lung-Sparing Surgery and Radiation

After his family and doctors conducted a nationwide search for the best available medical treatment, Lamonica decided to pursue treatment with Dr. Robert Cameron and the UCLA Comprehensive Mesothelioma Program in Los Angeles. He underwent a lung-sparing pleurectomy/decortication surgery performed by Dr. Cameron on November 5, 2015. He returned to Los Angeles for five weeks of radiation treatments which were completed in February 2016.

Lamonica and his wife of 50 years filed a lawsuit against over 20 companies in December 2015. Pre-trial settlements were reached with a number of companies. When trial began in July 2016, there were still 12 companies left in the case. In the course of trial proceedings over the next eleven weeks, settlements were reached with all but four companies.

The case was submitted to the jury on October 14. After over a week of deliberations, on October 24, the jury returned a verdict of $7,042,300 in favor of Mr. and Mrs. Lamonica. The jury assigned 25% of fault to Rich-Tex, Inc. the sole remaining manufacturer of joint compound still in the case.

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