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November 2020

3M Trial Team Secured Complete Defense Verdict in Products Liability Case

Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani Portland partner Nancy M. Erfle led a multi-firm trial team to secure a complete defense verdict in a case involving the 3M 8710 respirator after a three week in-person trial in King County, where the plaintiff asked the jury for more than $11,000,000 in damages.  

The case involved a living mesothelioma plaintiff who had spent his working life as an insulation worker at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.  By the time of trial, all of the asbestos-containing product manufacturers, as well as another respirator defendant, had resolved the cases against them.

The plaintiffs alleged that the 8710 respirator was defectively designed and that the company had not provided adequate warnings when the plaintiff used the product from 1972-1980, thus causing his mesothelioma. The 3M team defended the case by teaching 3M’s decades-long history of innovation in respiratory products — innovation that continues today, with 3M increasing global N95 respirator production to 2 billion per year by year’s end.

The jury found for 3M, concluding that there was no design or warning defect in the product. While the jury was selected remotely by Zoom, the trial was held in person in a convention center in Bellevue, Washington, converted into a “courthouse” to handle civil trials. Although some witnesses were called via Zoom, 3M brought its witnesses live while following COVID-19 guidelines. All participants (court staff, attorneys, witnesses, and jurors) wore masks throughout and jurors were seated so as to socially distance while listening to the evidence.

This result is impressive because Washington is a difficult jurisdiction due to its pure comparative negligence standard and joint and several liability in toxic tort cases. In addition to the presentation at trial, this result required thorough briefing on key issues, diligent and smart discovery efforts, and air-traffic-controller levels of coordination and organization.

Along with Erfle, Sandy Hanson, David MerrymanSamantha GamboaTanya O'NeilLeslie BenitezAndy HuttonJulie FreemanTonya Erlebach, Petra Hebert, and Erika Overson worked tirelessly for the last several months to defeat an accomplished and difficult plaintiff's firm. It is a testament to their talent and their teamwork with firms across the country to secure this victory.  

The trial team included Byron Miller of Thompson Miller & Simpson, PLLC, Angela Beranek Brandt of Larson King, and Mike Brooks of Wells, Anderson & Race, LLC. Many supported this effort including Dan Adams from Larson King, Bernadette Catalana from MG&M, Trisha Volpe from Barnes & Thornburg, and Litigation Insights. 

Nancy M. Erfle