Hellam v. Crane Co.Annotate this Case
In the 1960’s, Hellam worked at his grandfather’s boiler business, MBS, and was exposed to asbestos-containing products, including Crane’s, while refurbishing boilers. Hellam sued Crane and others after he developed mesothelioma, a fatal cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Hellam reached settlements with several defendants. A jury awarded him $937,882.56 in economic damages and $4.5 million in noneconomic damages on his design-defect claim, allocating 75 percent of the fault to MBS, 13 percent to Western Plumbing, seven percent to Crane, and the remainder to other defendants. The court of appeal affirmed. Meanwhile, Hellam disclosed pre-verdict settlements that allocated 50 percent of settlement proceeds to Hellam’s personal-injury claims and 50 percent to any future wrongful-death claims by Hellam’s sons. The trial court approved that allocation, ruled that it would apply 17.2 percent of the pre-verdict settlement proceeds as a setoff against Crane’s liability for economic damages, and ordered Hellam to provide unredacted versions of the agreements for its review. Hellam had total settlement proceeds of $2,192,500 from nine defendants. The court of appeal affirmed, reclassifying one settlement as post, rather than pre-verdict. The court upheld the 50/50 allocation of proceeds, the setoff for pre-verdict settlements, denial of Crane’s request to review unredacted versions of the agreements, and refusal to apply a setoff for possible recoveries from asbestos bankruptcy trusts.