James Morrison Case

San Francisco Jury Awards $5,150,000 to HVAC Mechanic and his Wife Against Refrigeration Compressor Maker Copeland Corporation

On March 8, 2006, a San Francisco jury awarded $5,150,000 to James and Sandra Morrison of Post Falls, Idaho for asbestos-caused cancer. Mr. Morrison, a life-long non-smoker, is dying from lung cancer. He was exposed to asbestos during the 1970s and 80s as an HVAC mechanic in Fresno, CA. This is the first verdict in the United States involving asbestos exposure from Copeland refrigeration equipment.

James Morrison is a 52-year-old HVAC mechanic from Post Falls, Idaho who was exposed to asbestos from Copeland refrigeration compressors while performing maintenance on Copeland compressors during the 1970s and 80s in Fresno, CA. James Morrison never smoked cigarettes.

In January, 2004, James Morrison, husband of Sandra Morrison, and father of two children, was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. Mr. Morrison’s prognosis is terminal.

Mr. Morrison filed his lawsuit in San Francisco on June 4, 2004. In March, 2006, following a five-week jury trial, the jury found that the remaining defendant, Copeland Corporation, was 12.4% responsible for James Morrison’s cancer. The jury found that Copeland’s products were defective, that Copeland failed to properly warn of asbestos hazards and that Copeland was negligent. Mr. Morrison was also found 12.3% at fault for his injuries. James Morrison rebuilt and maintained numerous Copeland refrigeration compressors from 1975 to 1989 while employed as an HVAC mechanic at the Patton Sheetmetal shop in Fresno, CA.

The jury found that Mr. Morrison suffered $2,526,000 in lost income and medical expenses and awarded $2,250,000 in pain and suffering. In addition, Mrs. Morrison was awarded $375,000 for loss of her husband’s care, comfort and society.

Plaintiffs’ expert witnesses included Dr. Allan Smith, Berkeley, California, an epidemiologist; Dr. Robert Fallat, a San Francisco pulmonologist, Dr. Richard Cohen, Saratoga, California, a physician testifying regarding the historical knowledge of asbestos dangers; Dr. Jerold Abraham, Syracuse, New York, a pathologist; Dr. Arnold Brody, a Tulane University cellular biologist; Richard Hatfield, Suwannee, Georgia, an industrial hygienist; Charles Ay, Long Beach, California, an asbestos detection specialist; and Dr. Barry Ben-Zion, Santa Rosa, California, an economist.

Defense expert witnesses included Dr. Samuel Spival, an oncologist from San Francisco; Dr. Michael Graham, St. Louis, Missouri, a pathologist; John Spencer, Baltimore, Maryland, an industrial hygienist; Dr. Allan Feingold, Miami, Florida, a pulmonologist; and David Weiner, an economist.