On July 8, 2021, in a 9-0 decision, the Washington Supreme Court reversed in part the Court of Appeals and reinstated the $81 million jury verdict from 2017 in the Coogan case. The plaintiff, Doy Coogan, had died from his mesothelioma after years of asbestos exposure earlier in his career through automotive repair and excavation work. A jury unanimously found the two trial defendants, Genuine Parts Company (GPC) and National Automotive Parts Association (NAPA) liable for Mr. Coogan’s wrongful death and the pain he and his family endured. Weinstein Caggiano served as co-counsel in this case along with Dallas firm Dean Omar Branham Shirley.
The Washington Supreme Court overturned the appellate court’s ruling and reinstated the verdict in full. The justices dedicated much of the opinion emphasizing the importance of the trial by jury process—a jury that sat through trial for three whole months. The Supreme Court found that the court of appeals had failed to give proper deference to the trial court’s decision to exclude defendants’ expert testimony as unfairly prejudicial and speculative. Along this same rationale, the Supreme Court also rejected the court of appeals’ determination that the verdict was so excessive to indicate that it must have been the result of passion or prejudice, citing a total lack of support in the record. “Trial by jury is the bedrock of our justice system,” the Supreme Court wrote. “We trust juries to render verdicts based on their assessment of the evidence according to the law as instructed by the trial court. Appellate review is appropriately limited, serving as a backstop to ensure trials are conducted fairly, the law is applied correctly, and the verdict is within the bounds of justice.”
The effect of this decision will continue to help future families impacted by asbestos-related disease in their fights for justice. Weinstein Caggiano is proud to have been a part of such a momentous trial and impactful Supreme Court decision.