Toxic Tort Podcast
Mark Bratt was recently invited to participate in a Justice Team Podcast on Toxic Torts hosted by Bob Simon of the Simon Law Group. Mark and Bob both attended Pepperdine University School of Law and years later regularly work together and collaborate whenever possible. Mark was joined by Ben Adams, a partner at Dean Omar Branham Shirley LLP, and Eric Brown, a partner at DeBlase Brown Eyerly LLP to discuss all things toxic torts.
What are toxic torts? Toxic torts are a category of civil lawsuit related to exposure to toxic and hazardous substances that cause significant harm to individuals including death or cancer. These cases often involve toxic exposures to substances like asbestos, silica, Aqueous Film-Forming Foam (AFFF), forever chemicals (highly toxic fluorinated chemicals called PFAs), glysophate (which is found in Roundpp), benzene, and various emissions from refineries, manufacturing plants, mines and landfills. In toxic tort litigation, plaintiffs seek compensation for injuries, illnesses, or property damage resulting from exposure to these toxic materials. These cases typically hinge on proving that the defendant (often a corporation or entity responsible for the substance's release or exposure) failed to exercise reasonable care in handling or disposing of these hazardous materials, leading to harm to the plaintiffs. Toxic tort lawsuits aim to hold responsible parties accountable for their actions and secure compensation for victims who have suffered due to toxic exposures. These cases are typically very complicated and require significant medical and scientific proof to show the exposures caused the harm.
Bob Simon (00:06):
Ladies, gentlemen, and listeners, welcome to this episode of the Justice Team Podcast. And today we’re tackling a very newsworthy subject, and that is Toxic Torts. And those involve not only what happened in East Palestine, Ohio with the train wreck there, we’re talking about mesothelioma, we’re talking about talc powder. We’re talking about why Eric Brown, one of our guests, lost all of his hair early. We’re talking about all that fun stuff. So, I’m going to introduce our guests that we have on here today because we have some of the best trial lawyers in the nation that are actually out there trying these cases to hold corporations accountable.
And they’re going to tell you what they’re seeing. They’re going to talk to you about recent events that are happening in Ohio and how the landscape is. So, first, we have on today is Ben Adams. And Ben, he’s a partner and trial lawyer at Dean Omar Branham and Shirley. Ben actually went to UC, San Diego. I think everybody here went to California law schools, which is pretty cool. I know both Mark and Eric went to Pepperdine. Me too. You guys are awesome for that.
But, Ben, I want to hear a little bit more of your story because you’re passionate about this, because your dad got hurt, you’re fighting for justice for the little folks, and then you started off just taking a job out of law school, throwing people out of their homes, and now you’re throwing SEO or CEOs of bad corporations out of their fucking homes. So, why don’t you tell us a little bit about your journey?
Ben Adams (01:31):
Sure. Thanks for having me, Bob. I’m really excited to be here. I’ve been doing asbestos litigation, mostly toxic torts and PI, a lot of mesothelioma cases for about 13 years. It is true that I went to law school thinking I would help people and would be like the lawyers I saw on TV and in Erin Brockovich and things like that. And then, I graduated law school and there were no jobs. So, I took a job at a firm working for big banks, evicting people from their homes. And so, I would go to court almost every day. Sometimes the defendant or the other side wouldn’t have a lawyer, there’d be a family there crying and we’d take their home away for Bank of America.
And I just thought, “This is not what I want to do. This is not what want to do.” And sometimes, I’d go to the parking lot and the family would be there in the parking lot having just lost their home. And I’d be like, “How can I get out of here?” So, I had an opportunity through a friend to start working on mesothelioma cases, and I just loved it from day one and I’ve continued to do it ever since.
Bob Simon (02:44):
And for those who don’t know, mesothelioma is leading for asbestos, when you hear about asbestos litigation and all that stuff. And Ben actually is out there trying these cases. Recently, this December of 2022, hit a $50 million-plus verdict against Avon and Hyster for... this is about mesothelioma and with talc use. This is very interesting. We’re going to dive into that in a second because Mark and I had a conversation about this earlier, but just so everybody knows out there, Ben’s out there on the streets, he’s also in the courtrooms holding people accountable.
We’re also going to introduce Eric Brown, and for those of you who do not know Eric Brown, he was on bourbon of proof. We’ve heard his life story downtown, Eric Brown. He is a partner at his law firm. They do almost a lot of mesothelioma cases, toxic torts, but Eric has tried cases across the country, from Philadelphia to the rural sticks of the southeast United States and California. So, Eric, thanks for coming on, buddy. Nice to see you again.
Eric Brown (03:42):
Good to see you, man. I have not made any families cry, I’m totally teasing. But yeah, man, it’s certainly a pleasure to be here.
Bob Simon (03:53):
Eric, are you a true blood? Have you only done work for the people?
Eric Brown (03:57):
Yeah. So, when I got out of Pepperdine, I had these visions of grandeur. I wanted to be in entertainment law and unfortunately, it wasn’t as easy to get into as one might think, and it’s not as fulfilling. It’s basically contract work. So, I started applying at different firms that I had heard of, unlike on the websites or whatever. And I got hired by a guy named John Quisenberry who used to be partners with Brian Cabotac and they had just split up. They were really big in the 1994 earthquake litigation.
So, I came in right at the tail end of that and I was doing insurance, Bad Faith stuff. Helping people, helping little people that have been screwed over by insurance companies was my first intro to helping people. And after doing that for a few years, I got wind of a job opening by a firm called Baron & Budd, which was a huge Texas firm, which at the time might have been the biggest plaintiff’s firm in the nation.
And they were opening up a Los Angeles office because California was the place to be. They had some serious tort reform going on in Texas. So, a lot of firms were looking to open up shop in California. I was one of the first lawyers hired in LA, did that for, I want to say six, seven years, then opened up my own shop in 2010.
Bob Simon (05:21):Love it. And I think Ben just started practicing in 2010, I think. Eric, you graduated, in 2003, I think you started, something like this.Eric Brown (05:29):Yeah, I was, I think two years in front of you, right?
Bob Simon (05:30):
Yeah, I was 2005. Mark, you were 2005 or 2006 or 2004?
Mark Bratt (05:33):
Bob Simon (05:35):
Yeah. So, Mark, the last guest that we have on here today also started doing mesothelioma cases. Mark has his own firm now. He’s in Culver City, but Mark has now been on his own for a little over a year and one of the best success story success stories I’ve seen is been able to scale his practice and bring in seven figures his first year. And that takes a lot of patience and doing things the right way and bringing in the right cases, but also knowing what the fuck you’re doing to be honest. Mark’s also a good friend and we collaborate and talk a lot about other things. But, Mark, one of the things that was very interesting I saw about you is your favorite whiskey’s Weller. So, I just wanted to ask you why Weller?
Mark Bratt (06:20):
I’ve been lucky enough through friends and paying way too much money to have, try a lot of things, including another Weller brand, Pappy, and I don’t know, it’s just about the sweet taste of Weller 12 and love it. And it’s my go-to.
Eric Brown (06:37):
What’s so good about it though? I’m just curious.
Mark Bratt (06:42):
A lot of people like different types of whiskey, I tend to not enjoy the PD taste much. So, I like the sweet taste of corn-based whiskey and it just sits on the tongue well and goes down easy.
Bob Simon (07:01):
Just like Eric in front of his opponent in the courtrooms, who goes down easy. Mark also is, he plays Uno regularly, as do I love that game. So, I got to ask you this also real quick, Mark. When you play Uno, if somebody puts down a draw four, can I then put down a draw four and someone’s drawing eight, or have you played it the wrong way?
Mark Bratt (07:20):
Our family does not follow those rules, but I have played in games where those rules are followed and quite enjoy it. I regularly spar with my six-year-old daughter, and at the end of the day, I try to reserve the draw fours for my wife as opposed to my daughter. Anyway, with a game of three, that rule is not one that we follow.
Bob Simon (07:48):
And Mark’s also recently being addicted to tattoos, just as Eric Brown is, just as I am. And I don’t know about Ben, but I hear, after Ben’s last, if he gets another, if you get a nine-figure verdict, Ben, I think you have to get a tattoo on your ass.
Eric Brown (08:02):
At least one, come on.
Ben Adams (08:03):
I think so, yeah.
Bob Simon (08:07):
All right. Let’s talk about the recent stuff. And I’m going to start with Ben on this one. Tell us about what a toxic tort is. We have a lot of law students, young lawyers, and just people interested in legal space. What is a toxic tort? And it tied into what’s going on in any East Palestine, Ohio.
Ben Adams (08:24):
Well, my focus is really on mesothelioma. So, when I think of a toxic tort, I think of just an exposure to a toxic substance leading to a disease. And in the case of mesothelioma, it’s asbestos, mesothelioma is a terminal cancer with only one cause. And that’s asbestos, essentially one cause. And so, when someone has developed mesothelioma, they’ve been exposed to asbestos.
Bob Simon (08:57):
But in your most recent verdict, you had a woman that was using, I believe it was where she was using talc powder.
Ben Adams (09:05):
Bob Simon (09:06):
How does that happen? How did she get that type of cancer in the area that she got? If you can explain to our listener. Not a lot of people know that. I was shocked when Mark told me about this.
Ben Adams (09:15):
So, talc is a rock or a mineral that grows in the ground, and so is asbestos. Asbestos, I always just say it’s a rock. I think technically it’s a mineral, but it’s a rock that’s mined out of the ground and was put into products for decades for all reasons. But it grows in the ground. And so, talc and asbestos, depending on the region, grow in the ground together. And so, when they mine the talc out of the ground and grind it up into a powder to go in a baby powder or a makeup or a body powder or a face powder, it can have asbestos impurities in the talc. And so, when women dust themselves with talc, they breathe the talc, and they breathe in some of the asbestos. And over time, that can lead to mesothelioma.
People explain it sometimes the fat in a steak. The steak meat itself is the talc and the veins of fat in the steak are like the asbestos. So, if you grind up the steak into ground beef, you have that fat in the steak, which is the asbestos in the talc.
Bob Simon (10:26):
But, Mark, how easy is it to separate those two? Can you easily separate the asbestos from the talc?
Mark Bratt (10:33):
No, it’s virtually impossible. And that’s the struggle. Even though industry back in the ’50s and ’60s was well aware that the two minerals were basically mineral cousins and always present no matter where the mine is in the world. They tried all these techniques. They tried floating techniques where they used different viscosities to try to float out the asbestos from the talc, didn’t work. They tried to more carefully mine it. But the truth is, when you’re taking a mineral from the Earth’s crust, you don’t use a very precise method. You blast out with fucking dynamite.
And so, you’re going to blast it out and then small amounts of other minerals, including asbestos, which is one of the most dangerous toxins known to man in causing cancer, is going to be an impurity in the finished product. And the companies knew this and they hid it from all of us and they hid it from the FDA. And here we are.
Bob Simon (11:35):
Well, what companies, I mean, you can name names on the show. What are the companies, the big ones that were hiding this and what decades were we talking about?
Mark Bratt (11:42):
Johnson & Johnson was one of the ring leaders in miscommunicating information to the FDA, and also manipulating the science in a way that would essentially mislead folks like us who are investigating them in a courtroom setting for decades. They were communicating with the FDA back in the 1960s, 1970s when the FDA was formed, but they were communicating with the government in the ’60s and in the ’70s. And it’s not just them, they were using their... it’s called the CTFA, it’s the consumer group for the talc companies. So, it’s Johnson & Johnson, Whitaker Clark & Daniels, Colgate-Palmolive.
We know Colgate from toothbrush, but they made products like Cashmere Bouquet. And the list goes on. These are mining companies, these are finished product, talc companies. And frankly, Johnson & Johnson was both, they actually owned a mine for a period of time, ultimately sold it. But they knew that asbestos was an impurity that was uniformly found in talc products.
We could talk a little bit about the way that they misled things with the testing, they essentially chose to use, to self-regulate in a bid, but they knew it, there was a hazard and we didn’t know about it as consumers.
Eric Brown (13:04):
And then, Bob, one more kick to the nuts, Bob, if I can just add on this, one more kick to the nuts is Johnson & Johnson just tried to declare bankruptcy of all their asbestos litigation. So, they did what’s called the Texas Two Step, where they create a shell company or this random offshoot, they spin off all of their asbestos and talc liabilities, and then they just bankrupt that company. So, people that have been injured and sickened and all that from their talc just can’t get any money. And notably, their bankruptcy just got kicked out as, I don’t want to say fraudulent, but the bankruptcy court’s like, “Nah, you can’t do that.”
Apparently, it’s going up to the Supreme Court. I don’t know if anything’s been filed yet. Do you guys know if something’s been filed with the Supreme Court yet?
Ben Adams (13:49):
Yeah. J&J filed their, I think it was a motion for reconsideration actually. But I saw it come through.
Eric Brown (13:56):
So, yeah, they got kicked out of bankruptcy court and now they’re taking it up to the Supreme. So, we’ll see what happens.
Bob Simon (14:01):
And that’s why it’s so important to have elected officials to appoint judges because now you can see how it’s going to affect consumers all the way down, people that have been harmed catastrophically since the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s. Well, Eric, the question I have for you is why do we hear all these mesothelioma commercials now if this stuff was going on back in the ’40s, ’50s, ’60s?
Eric Brown (14:21):
Well, it’s because it has a very long latency period, and a latency period is something that if you take the date of, first, exposure to the date of onset of disease, and the literature says that from when you’re first exposed up until when you’re diagnosed, you first start to see disease, it could be anywhere from 15, 20 years up to maybe 60 years. So, for somebody who might have been in Vietnam, who might have been in the Korean War, who might have done construction work, let’s say in the ’60s or ’70s, you’re still starting to see mesotheliomas because 50, 60 years down the road, this is when it pops up.
Bob Simon (15:02):
Wow. And, Mark, we were talking about how some of the wives of the miners that were getting, breathing asbestos, they started to develop cancer. Usually when I think of mesothelioma and asbestos, and maybe our listeners, you think about it being in someone’s lungs and that’s where the cancer’s starting. Haven’t you seen it starting other places and then how do you link those things together?
Mark Bratt (15:23):
Yeah. Mesothelioma is actually a disease of the mesothelial cells. And those cells are found in very specific locations in the body. It’s basically a thin single-cell membrane that surrounds the lungs, but it also surrounds the peritoneal cavity, which is basically a stomach cavity and it also surrounds the heart. And then, in men, because when we’re developing inside our mothers, our testicles dropped from the peritoneal cavity and they also surround the testicles. So, you will find mesothelioma in those four spots. The pleura or what surrounds the lungs, the stomach cavity, around the heart and on the testicles. Everything besides the lungs just occur slightly less frequent.
It’s already a very rare disease. There’s only about 2500 people that get diagnosed with it in a given year in the United States, but just based upon how it enters the body and then moves its way to the target site for the cancer, which is typically through the lymphatic system. So, our lymph nodes and everything, go to really all of our body. So, asbestos can make its way into that fluid and flow to different locations. And it just happens less frequently around the heart and in men around the testicles.
Bob Simon (16:49):
Ben, the most recent verdict you have, these verdicts, you’ve had the opportunity to what’s called punitive damages. And for our listeners, that means punishment for wrongdoers, a heightened burden of proof for people to be able to, be held accountable. Can you walk us through how you’re able to obtain not just the compensation for people’s pain and suffering, but to punish these companies and how you got there?
Ben Adams (17:13):
Sure. I do want to say the most recent verdict I tried with Jessica Dean. So, it wasn’t just myself. There were other lawyers who we basically split the case with.
Bob Simon (17:24):
We wanted to get Jessica on, but she’s back to back for a few trials and she’s a rockstar.
Ben Adams (17:28):
She’s opening in South Carolina as we speak. So, yeah, the punitive damages, the difference in my mind is there are levels of knowledge of what the companies knew about the hazards before your client was exposed. And the way I explain it is there are different levels of knowledge. There is something called constructive knowledge, which is the company didn’t actually know, but they could have known if they went and they looked. They went to the library, if they read a book, they could have known. And then, there’s actual knowledge, which is they actually did go to the book, the library. They did read the book. They did see that asbestos caused death and disease and they did nothing.
They didn’t warn, they didn’t protect, they didn’t recall. And then, there’s a third level of knowledge, which I think is the highest level of knowledge that there is. And that’s experiential knowledge. It’s one thing to read something in a book, it’s another to experience it in real life. And people know that and understand that, to actually live it is something quite different. And some of these companies, they lived it, their own people were dying of mesothelioma and they continued to sell the products and install the products without warning.
Bob Simon (18:55):
How much are these companies, how much have they made off of these products over the years?
Ben Adams (19:00):
Well, it’s hundreds of millions of dollars to... they built their entire business on it. Some of these brake companies, they are multibillion-dollar companies, and they built their business from day one on asbestos. So, the standard is essentially negligence as you should have known, or you could have known and punitive damages are you actually knew. And so, that’s what we try to prove. We try to prove actual knowledge of the hazards of asbestos products and doing nothing.
In our most recent case, we were able to prove that Hyster, the manufacturer of asbestos, of forklifts that had asbestos-containing, brakes, actually received warnings from one of their suppliers and took the warning, took the brakes out of the box with the warning on it, threw the box away, put it in a new Hyster box, and sent it out to my guy’s family with no warning for, I think it was over a decade. And so, those are the facts that justified punitive damages.
Bob Simon (20:13):
And, Mark, you mentioned this before, but there is supposed to be some consumer regulatory group that these companies get together and supposed to be their own watchdog. How did that not work? How does that not work?
Mark Bratt (20:26):
We can take it back to what’s going on in Ohio. If we rely upon companies to regulate themselves, they’re always invariably going to choose what’s best for the shareholders and what’s best for profits. Unless there is rules, regulations in place that force them to act appropriately or check on safety or do certain things, it’s scary. And that happened. We can look to what happened in the talc industry historically. We can look back at the asbestos industry generally, and I’m going to say this about the government. Usually when the government acts, they are coming in after the problem has become an immense issue.
OSHA was created in 1972, and the first thing they were tasked with doing was regulating asbestos in the workplace. Since then, the amount of asbestos that’s permitted in the workplace, and when I say permitted, it doesn’t mean it’s safe. It just means that these are the levels that when you balance everything, including what it costs for industry, because industry is involved in this process. They weigh in heavily about, well, if you make the regulations too hard, we’ll go out of business. And that’s not good for our economy, et cetera.
But in 1972, what they allowed has now since gone down to a tremendously low level because they know that if they reduce it, then bad things like scarring, diseases, and other things are going to be prevented. However, they may reduce cancers, they’re not going to entirely eliminate them. But yeah, OSHA came in ’72, but it was a problem for decades before. Workers were dying decades before, and the government finally act in ’72.
So, when we’re talking about what’s going on with Ohio and the train wreck and the failures by the company itself, I mean, this is not a derailment, it’s a disaster. It’s a manmade issue. I know we haven’t really touched on it, but vinyl chloride-
Bob Simon (22:41):
Because on February 3rd, East Palestine, Ohio, which is a... a Norfolk Southern train had 38 cars derail, 10 of which would had, contained toxic and hazardous materials and chemicals, one including vinyl chloride. So, just tell our listeners, what is vinyl chloride and how does it fuck us up?
Mark Bratt (22:58):
Yeah, it’s basically-
Eric Brown (22:58):
It’s a scientific term.
Bob Simon (23:03):
Yeah, it’s actually peer-reviewed literature that says, “Fuck you up.”
Mark Bratt (23:10):
Listen, the short of it is, it’s a colorless gas, highly flammable and is really only used... it’s a man-made product. It’s not naturally in the earth somewhere. It’s made purely to profit. And so, it’s highly toxic. It’s a class one A known human carcinogen. It causes liver cancer. And basically, the amount that was released when this train disaster wreck occurred is 1.1, I guess million particles. I’m not sure the metric or the measurement, but it’s equivalent to all the amount that has been released in all of industry around the whole country over the past year or so.
Bob Simon (23:56):
Has this been centralized just within East Palestine, Ohio, or have you, in your experience, seen this, have a mushroom effect over many, many geographic regions?
Mark Bratt (24:07):
Yes, and I know Eric, probably he can weigh on this as well, but just using our experience in asbestos cases, we have all represented people that either lived nearby a plant or a mine or something where they may have lived miles away from the plant, but yet still got mesothelioma with either no other identifiable exposure to asbestos. And the issue is that they lived downwind of this company that was spewing a carcinogen into the air. It would blow through the air and people would breathe it. And if they breathed it, because they lived there, every single day, 24/7 over the course of however many years they lived there, that was enough of an exposure to increase their risk for mesothelioma.
And it’s the same concern we have in Ohio. People that live downwind are going to breathe this vinyl chloride. And yes, there’s acute immediate things. People are getting rashes and have lung issues and it’s hurting them. The real concern is down the road and what’s going to happen to them or downstream because it apparently has gotten all in the water system and in the water and the streams and rivers.
Bob Simon (25:25):
So, what are the types of cancers that you can see stemming from vinyl chloride exposure? And then, what is a latency period that Eric brought up, or larceny? Was it larceny or latency, Eric?
Eric Brown (25:38):
Bob Simon (25:40):
Got it. Okay.
Mark Bratt (25:42):
Larceny is the next podcast topic and-
Bob Simon (25:45):
No, I like larceny. I like larceny, like their bourbon, it’s a good one. I like to tease Eric because his favorite whiskey is Connemara.
Eric Brown (25:53):
Bob Simon (25:54):
It’s an Irish whiskey, which is fine. It’s fine. Ben, what’s your favorite whiskey? We didn’t ask you that question before.
Ben Adams (26:01):
Gosh, I’m not a huge whiskey drinker. You’re probably going to delete me from the podcast immediately. But I did go to a bourbon tasting for our firm holiday party in Texas. Everyone in our Texas office is obsessed with bourbon, so I have tasted a few. I honestly just don’t have a favorite one. I’m sorry.
Bob Simon (26:21):
That’s okay. Is everybody here also licensed in Texas?
Eric Brown (26:30):
Working on it?
Mark Bratt (26:30):
Ben Adams (26:31):
Bob Simon (26:34):
Ben, I’ve seen you are a super lawyer in Texas. I saw that.
Ben Adams (26:40):
Yeah, I guess so.
Eric Brown (26:42):
Well, Bob, you’re licensed in Texas, right?
Bob Simon (26:45):
Yeah, I’m licensed in Texas.
Ben Adams (26:48):
Bob Simon (26:49):
Yeah. So, just continue to educate us because the latency period of these, if people are exposed now to vinyl chloride exposure, how much longer are we going to see the effects of this disaster that happened on February 3rd?
Mark Bratt (27:05):
What I know, and admittedly, this is all just happening, so I’ve been reading up on the science and really trying to learn a lot more about vinyl chloride, which is exactly how Ben, Eric, or I would approach any toxic exposure case. Invariably when something happens, there’s already a bunch of information out there in the medical and scientific community about increased risks for exposure. Liver cancer is directly related to vinyl chloride exposures. And I’m sure as time goes on, there’s going to be a lot more studies put into this.
Because when something big happens like this where it’s in the news, the scientific community and the medical community take notice and more interest is put in, which is typically generated by money. We always have to be a little skeptical here. So, at the bottom of any new literature that happens since this has occurred, you want to look at the bottom and see who funded this, anything funded by Norfolk, we might be a little bit skeptical about. And we deal with that all the time in asbestos cases.
Bob Simon (28:11):
Do you mean to tell me that the studies funded by the NFL that said concussions aren’t a real thing is not valid?
Mark Bratt (28:18):
Eric, what company does that? Is that [inaudible 00:28:21]? The NFL basically hired the same company.
Eric Brown (28:28):
No, it was... what’s it called?
Ben Adams (28:30):
Eric Brown (28:32):
It was Exponent. Exponent, yeah.
Bob Simon (28:35):
Exponent. The guys in Arizona that they hire in every product defect case to say that products are safe.
Eric Brown (28:40):
They’re everywhere, right? Exponent’s everywhere, man. They’ve got places everywhere and skyscrapers.
Bob Simon (28:46):
We confronted with these studies all the time and all the trials that we do, and you could just look who funded it, what’s their sample size. And it’s just crazy how often the Insurance Institute of America is one funding these studies to say people can’t get hurt in the rear-end crashes or cigarettes are safe. There’s a famous photograph of all these Yale-educated doctors raising their right hand in front of Congress and testifying that cigarettes were safe.
Eric Brown (29:09):
Bob Simon (29:12):
Yes. Ben, walk us through what should people in East Liverpool, in the surrounding areas, what are some things that they should be doing right now.
Ben Adams (29:19):
Bob Simon (29:21):
Palestine. What did I say? Liverpool?
Eric Brown (29:22):
Bob Simon (29:23):
Ah, God. See, Eric’s on here. Every time I see Eric, I think of soccer. I don’t know why.
Eric Brown (29:27):
There you go. You’ll never walk alone, right? That’s a Liverpool thing.
Bob Simon (29:33):
See, I knew he knew.
Ben Adams (29:36):
They should be trying to minimize their dose of exposure to the toxin, I think is a general rule. I don’t know as much about the East Palestine issue as Eric and Mark, but they should certainly be trying to minimize their dose and they should probably be contacting lawyers. There are some fundamentals of toxic tort cases for young lawyers. You mentioned law school students earlier that we can talk about what makes a strong case, how to work up a case. I don’t know if you want to talk about that right now.
But one of the things is the dose of exposure, the amount of the toxin that went into somebody’s body. And so, minimizing that is really what they should be doing.
Eric Brown (30:23):
I think there’s an evacuation order actually in the immediate area around that train accident.
Bob Simon (30:29):
When did that happen?
Eric Brown (30:31):
I think just a couple of days ago, they issued evac order. I don’t know what people are going to do. I don’t know how they’re paying for alternate living situations. I have no idea how that’s working out. But it’s a good move. Like Ben says, you want to minimize exposure, but monetarily, how do you make that happen if you’re living paycheck to paycheck? That’s tough. That’s why-
Mark Bratt (30:50):
I’ll tell you what, if they want to sell their house right now, who’s going to buy in East Palestine? How many people that have worked for decades and lived in that community, which is basically only about 2000 people, how are they going to sell their house to anyone? It’s selling beachfront property in Iowa. It’s just not possible. No one’s going to buy because it’s not real. And no one’s going to want to move into an area that is now at this point, a toxic waste site, basically.
Bob Simon (31:22):
And that’s a good point. Could there be lawyer? And I do think that trial lawyers are the ones that actually hold these people accountable because we’ve pushed the envelope far faster than the government does or anybody else. But is there ever situations where you have these issues and people go in and lawyers will help create a fund to buy people’s home at fair market value and then try to recoup that money from the bad doers, the evildoers?
And I’ve seen this happen in hurricane cases where they’ll come in and try to pay for everybody’s roofs up front that people can’t afford to get a new roof and then sue the insurance company to finally get the money back from them. I’m just putting my mind in East Palestine right now. What are these folks going to do? They really don’t have a lot of options.
Eric Brown (32:06):
It’s scary, man. I just remodeled my kitchen. And not to say this is equivalent at all, but I just remodeled my kitchen and the contractor dug out all the floors to where I thought it was the last layer. I walk in one day and the dude got another layer that he found with a bunch of old school looking tile, right? Dust everywhere. My son’s literally in the living room. I’m just like, “Dude, you got to be kidding me.” So, I grabbed everybody and boned out. And that’s just one incident of something on a smaller scale. And I was petrified. I can’t imagine what the folks in Ohio were thinking.
Kids are getting acutely sick. They’re getting headaches, they’re getting bloody noses. You’re seeing plumes of, dark smoke in the air. It’s got to be super scary and super concerning.
Mark Bratt (33:02):
Not to mention the wildlife and the animals in the area are just dropping dead, and the fish in the water. This happened 20 days ago. And there’s residents still asking the company and their CEO, Alan Shaw, “What are you going to do?” And literally it’s like he’s been trained by a lawyer, a defense lawyer, and all he says, sound bites are, “We’re going to do what’s right.” Well, how about stop talking about what you’re going to do and do something and help these people, put them up in housing somewhere where it’s safe, figure out a way to minimize the dose, as Ben was suggesting earlier, and get them outside of harm’s way?
Because the acute immediate issues that they’re feeling are just one thing. It’s literally what’s going to happen in 20 years, 30 years. That’s what really concerning. So, I don’t know.
Bob Simon (33:58):
We’ve talked about asbestos. We got into East Palestine, Ohio, what’s going on there. I know there’s stuff I hear about, AFFF, with firefighting foam. What are some of the things that people are finding out now that are super toxic to individuals and cases that you guys are working on that you’re very passionate about?
Eric Brown (34:20):
There’ve been a handful of trials across the nation. Awesome trial lawyer from California got a $2 billion verdict. Brent Wisner. Is that the guy?
Ben Adams (34:28):
Mark Bratt (34:28):
Eric Brown (34:30):
Awesome, awesome, awesome job. I think there was one or two other verdicts. There was a couple of defense verdicts.
Bob Simon (35:04):
Do we actually see more evidence of cancers in more developed countries due to man-made use and chemicals? Is that a thing? Or is it cancers always just been around, but we’re just hearing about more and more people being affected these past few years?
Eric Brown (35:22):
I asked my wife that same question last night, believe it or not. She’s from El Salvador. Yeah, she’s from El Salvador. It’s a very rural area. There’s not that much man-made stuff. There’s not a lot of fast food, I guess. Well, if you know where to find it, there is, but it’s like, what if you just kept it simple and ate natural foods and didn’t expose yourself to a bunch of stuff, would you still get cancer? And she said that even her relatives, her older relatives in El Salvador still, she knows of someone got cancer.
So, I don’t know the answer to that. Maybe it could have been because of some exhaust fumes or something in the plants I don’t know about, but that’s an awesome question, man.
Bob Simon (36:10):
Yeah, I think it’s one, time will tell, but we hear about Monsato all the time. So, what happens? Ben, you’re hitting these verdicts for 20, 30, 50 million. Are these just paper judgements or do these companies actually have the funds and money to pay these things?
Ben Adams (36:29):
Most of them have the funds and money to pay them. There’s always the threat of bankruptcy, not real bankruptcy like you’re broke. Bankruptcy like, you’re a big giant billion-dollar corporation, and you want to put your assets in one company and liabilities in another and go bankrupt with the other. But we’re hoping that will stop after this Johnson & Johnson, after the court of appeals rejected their bankruptcy. But I just wanted to say something about the question you asked, Eric.
One of the scary things about some of these chemicals is not just looking at them in isolation, but it’s when you combine some of these chemicals together in someone’s body, it’s not like a five plus five poisoning. It’s like a five plus five equals a thousand poisoning. There’s a synergistic effect with combining some of these chemicals in people’s bodies where it’s not just additive, but it’s an exponential risk of cancer.
So, for example, smoking and asbestos, let’s say smoking gives you a 10, is a 10 on the risk of lung cancer and asbestos is a 10 on the risk of lung cancer. You combine them, it’s not 20, it’s not additive. It’s like 100. It’s a synergistic effect. So, when we’re drinking less sulfate and we’re being exposed to asbestos and talc, and we’ve got secondhand cigarette smoke and God knows what else is in our air, in our water, in our food, and the companies are telling you through Exponent, “Well, it’s a safe dose of each in isolation.” But when you combine them all together, God knows what can happen.
Bob Simon (38:14):
How many times are things just done in strict isolation? We’ve live like we’re in the world, right? And I’m glad you guys, because I didn’t think about bringing this up, was just these fraudulent studies that are out there. Mark, Eric, Ben, if you can think of some studies or when you’ve been in trial and having to, I mean, I’ve had trials against major car manufacturers and they’re paying one expert alone, $2 to $3 million to do all this shit, and it’s all junk science. And it’s just like, how are you going to expose this stuff?
I’ll start with Ben and then I’ll work more with Eric to Mark, ask this question about fraudulent studies and how you get around it.
Ben Adams (38:54):
It can be hard, because they cover it in scientific gobbledygook. It has the facade of science. So, you really got to dig and look under the hood. One example in the case we just tried that I thought, is always cracks me up is they did a study, I think it was Exponent, where they wanted to measure the levels of asbestos released from a work practice, which was scraping a gasket off of an engine like an asbestos-containing gasket. And they said, “Look, we scraped the gasket off the engine,” which is something that a lot of auto mechanics do. And there was pretty much no exposure. So, when your guy testified about scraping the gaskets off, I guess he wasn’t exposed.
Well, some smart lawyers filed motions to compel subpoenas and got the image of the wire brush that they used to scrape the gasket. It was literally a makeup brush. It couldn’t scrape anything. It couldn’t create dust out of anything. So, they had scraped this burnt-on automotive gasket with a little powder brush. So, of course, there was no dust, but you never would’ve known that from the study because it just said we used a wire brush to scrape the gasket. So, that’s just one example of how they absolutely break the test. It’s crazy.
Bob Simon (40:22):
When there’s so much money on the line, I mean, willing to do everything. I do think juries are getting more sophisticated with the “fake news” or alternative facts because you can really... I make it a theme, I know it’s common. I make it a theme of jury selection, who here have seen studies or headlines? They’re a little hesitant to believe. And if you get to the nitty-gritty that it shows something different. Eric and Mark, your next, can you tell some of the things that you have to deal with in your trials or these fake studies and shit that you have to deal with?
Eric Brown (40:57):
Yeah. Mark, you want to go?
Mark Bratt (41:00):
Eric Brown (41:02):
Two stories come to mind. The first story I’m thinking of is probably a bit easier for me to think of right now. So, there’s something called the cooling tower. And we are preparing for a trial against the cooling tower company called Marley Cooling Towers. What a cooling tower does is it takes hot water that comes from the circulating system, cools it down and recirculates it for the most part. It’s definitely more complicated than that, but that’s like the layman’s version. In the cooling tower, there’s something that’s called fill, which is on the... it’s like egg crates on the bottom where the water sits on that has asbestos in it.
And there’s something called louvers that sit to the side that allows cold air to come in and cool off the water. And those are also made of asbestos. And maintenance men who my client was, have to come in and they have to drain the water out sometimes and they have to scrape all the residue off of the fill and scrape the residue off of the louvers. The defendants were using this study, I forget. It was either... I don’t know the defense expert who did it off the top of my head.
But they were relying on this study that said, “Yes, we had somebody do a work practice study,” like Ben was talking about, and he scraped off the louvers and there is absolutely no release of asbestos. And it sucks because as a lawyer, you have to almost reevaluate your case. You’re like, “Well, can I even take this to trial if the science is really against me?” Maybe I have to tell my client, “Hey, listen, I know what you did, but we’re really up against the wall here because they have a study that really kills us.”
So, we really pressed the issue, and kudos to my partner, Patrick, on this because he really pressed the issue. It turns out that the guy who did the study, so there was louvers on one side... or I’m sorry, the louver was like a slat, one side with all asbestos, and if you flip it over, it was like a glaze that was not really asbestos. There was a glaze covering it. And the guy who did the study, he was scraping off the glaze part, which is why there was no asbestos release.
It’s really damaging because you can seriously take almost nothing for a case that if you just dig a little deeper could be a very, very good case because of the junk studies.
Bob Simon (43:25):
I’ve gone as far as, I find out when they’re doing these crash tests and these expert groups doing crash tests, and I’ll send an investigator to go pocket-cam it because you know they always try to cover up what’s really going on and they write their study later. I have a few that I’m just waiting for them to come out with their result, isn’t bust them on it. But shit. Mark, give me some of your fraudulent shit you see go down with these studies.Mark Bratt
There’s a bunch, but just a quick and easy one is, it’s almost similar to what everyone else has said and what you said. There’s studies out there where the person testifying who did the study themselves is claiming that there’s no exposure. And then, you push them on the issue and you get video of the actual study and they’re wearing a fucking mask. And the result of the study is that there’s no danger, no increased risk, but the entire time, them and the folks they’re working with are wearing a mask.
And it’s fun to unravel a study line by line and point out what math equation is wrong or what they’re doing is wrong. But it’s almost more fun to show the jury a picture or a video that speaks so much more to undercut the actual result. It’s not dangerous. Why the fuck are you wearing a mask?
Bob Simon (44:47):
Yeah, and that’s a good point is a lot of people don’t know. They videotape almost all of these and if you ask the right questions, request the right documents or see who did the studies and subpoenaed them if it wasn’t them specifically to get the videos. If they’re doing any biomechanical studies, get the video in some of these. Because these dummies, they’re using a kitten thrown around. You’re trying to see they’re not getting hurt. So, guys, we got about five more minutes here left on.
First, thanks for coming on. But I just want to go around and just figure out why you are all passionate about what you do. I always think about the movie The Rainmaker or Erin Brockovich doing what you guys are out there doing. So, Ben, why are you passionate and why do you get in the courtroom every day and help these folks?
Ben Adams (45:28):
Well, I’m a true believer in what we do. First of all, of our clients die, 100%. And so, I am inspired by people who spend some of the last weeks of their life giving testimony over video for a recovery that they’ll never see. And it’s really like, you really get to see people doing one last nice thing for their family because they’re not going to be here to enjoy whatever comes out of the lawsuit. And I think that’s pretty inspiring. I’m just inspired by our clients and also juries, people who sit for sometimes months on end, nothing to gain, sitting in LA traffic on a bus for days and days and days and just listening to testimony and getting it right.
I don’t want to be too cheesy, but it’ll... if you get too pessimistic about life, you should come watch one of these jury’s trials and some of these people who just sit there day after day after day and do what’s right when they know how easy it is to get out a jury selection, when they could have not shown up, they could have made up an excuse. They saw the people say something crazy in jury selection to get off. They watched it happen and they chose to stay when it would’ve been easier probably not to.
And so, things like that, I’m a true believer in what we do. I think it’s righteous. There’s a lot of money in it and sometimes it can feel like blood money because I think all PI lawyers have that balance. But I think what we do is righteous and we help people and I think we change corporate policy. I’m just a true believer. I love it.
Bob Simon (47:31):
For a lot of the cases you guys are trying, these are multiple week or month-long trials, months. So, it takes a lot of dedication for you folks to be away from your friends and family and the jury services to do it. Eric, do you think that being a trial lawyer that you have changed the world or policy or the way corporations do things for the better?
Eric Brown (47:53):
I do, man. The only thing worse than getting terminal cancer is getting a terminal cancer that could have been prevented. And it’s just such a sad thing to see these hardworking men and women that all they did was work for a living and try to provide for their families. And now, they have this cancer that could have been prevented, had a company taken precautions or warned or made a slight change to a design or something. I’m a true believer, just like Ben says. It’s just the honor of a lifetime to help these people. And when you meet these people... I think we talked about this a little bit on burden of proof. I go around to the craziest parts.
Bob Simon (48:38):
Eric Brown (48:40):
Oh, bourbon. I go around, I’m sure Ben and Mark have done the same. You go around to the smallest parts of the country and meet small-town people, sometimes have never seen a Black dude before and you just make this bond and this connection with these families, it’s immeasurable. It’s just great work for great families. It’s very heartwarming.
Bob Simon (49:04):
Yeah, I know you and both Eric Brown and Mark Bratt have a thing with it. And Justice Team is going to educate a lot of members on more of what you guys do and how you’re out there helping the community. Mark, why are you inspired? Because you’ve been doing this almost... you came right out of law school, I think, at Waters Krauss doing this type of work. How did you get into that right away and know what you wanted to do?
Mark Bratt (49:25):
I’ll be honest, I lucked into it. I think you might know Kevin Loew from Pepperdine as well, and he was taking the bar exam. Without knowing the firm, I was desperate for a summer job. And I’m like, “Hey, since you’re taking the bar exam, you think I can do what you were doing last summer?” And he’s like, “Well, I’ll at least get you an interview.” And so, fortunately, it worked out. So, from law school forward, I’ve been working in the asbestos toxic tort arena and have been fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to try these cases. First trial, hit some big verdicts, take on the toughest cases for families that are really in need.
I echo what Ben and Eric have said, my goal is to make a difference. And yes, it would be great if I could make a larger difference for the community and for the world we live in, but at a minimum, I hope to enrich the lives of the families that are losing people that really they shouldn’t be losing. These are man-made disasters, and I use that word not just for this Ohio situation, but the whole entire, asbestos caused cancer, world that we’ve been living in and experiencing for decades should have been prevented.
And none of these people should have cancer. They should be living their full lives with their families and being able to step in and take the burden on my shoulders and help them through this process and hopefully get a good result. It’s created lasting relationships. I text and call and stay in touch with the folks that have the cancer that are still alive, fortunately, regularly, as well as their families and making that impact immeasurable. But I will say this, and there’s a credit to all the firms out there. It’s not just us on this podcast, but let’s just take Johnson & Johnson and the talc situation.
They started getting sued in I think 2016 and under the cover of the pandemic is when they finally decided to stop selling talc in North America because they’d been hit by juries and read verdicts, in favor of the plaintiffs for tens of millions of dollars. They saw what was coming, but it took lawyers fighting on behalf of families and hitting verdicts and sometimes losing verdicts, but keep fighting to get to the point where Johnson & Johnson was forced to pull that off the market.
And if nothing else, hopefully, the future decades of people, and babies, baby powders used on will prevent future cancers and future injuries. So, that’s a testament to everyone’s been fighting that fight.
Bob Simon (52:24):
For all of our listeners and viewers out there, just I want to remind all of you that these cases and toxic torts are a very specialized area of law. It’s not something that you can just pick up and learn and want to represent a client that you’re going to be able to try that case and win. It’s one of those that you have to partner up with firms like Ben’s or Eric’s or Mark’s to be able to be successful. I’m telling you that because I do not do toxic torts like I will work with these guys on these types of cases.
Spine fusion injury cases, MBAs, anything on four wheels or two wheels, happy to do it. But these things, very specialized. So, I want you to reach out to these folks if you have any questions that you have about these type of things. You can always go to justice.team or the Justice Podcast Network, anything like that if you have questions.
Ben, thanks for coming on. Can you give everybody the quickest way for people to reach you? And then, we’ll go to Eric and Mark and then we’re going to get you on your way.
Ben Adams (53:14):
Sure. The easiest way to reach me is probably email badams@D-O-B-Slegal.com or I’ll give my cell phone number, I don’t care.
Eric Brown (53:31):
No dirty pics, Bob.
Bob Simon (53:33):
Where’s 360 from?
Ben Adams (53:34):
It’s Seattle Olympia area where I went to high school and where I got a cell phone for the first time. I’ve never changed it.
Bob Simon (53:43):
Nice. Eric, how about you, how people reaching you?
Eric Brown (53:46):
Bob Simon (54:04):
You’re not going to give your cell phone up?
Eric Brown (54:08):
No, no. Sure.
Bob Simon (54:10):
Okay. It’s okay.
Eric Brown (54:13):
I don’t want any Bob Simon late-night pics, dude.
Bob Simon (54:17):
Those are middays, bro. That’s how I roll.
Eric Brown (54:20):
Hit my cell phone up.
Bob Simon (54:25):
I really hope that’s somebody else’s phone number you want to prank. Good. Mark, how do we find you? How do listeners find you?
Mark Bratt (54:35):
Bob Simon (54:51):
Yeah, so that’s Bratt with two Ts.
Mark Bratt (54:53):
Oh, yeah. B-R-A-T-T.
Bob Simon (54:55):
Yeah, for people that are listening. So, guys, thank you for coming on. Any questions, you go to justice.team. You can ask our ChatBot there or email and we’ll be able to get you connected. So, guys, thank you for fighting the good fight and holding people accountable because we know sure as hell, the fucking companies aren’t going to do it and the government ain’t going to give a shit until something disastrous happens. So, thank y’all.
Eric Brown (55:14):
Thank you for having us.