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Adams v. Ford Motor Co.

California Court of Appeal
132 Cal. Rptr. 3d 424 (2011)


Facts

Richard Adams regularly performed maintenance on his vehicles himself, including five vehicles manufactured by Ford Motor Company (Ford) (defendant). Adams developed mesothelioma, a cancer associated with asbestos exposure, and died. Adams’s wife and three children (plaintiffs) sued numerous defendants, including Ford and other automobile manufacturers. The plaintiffs alleged that Adams was exposed to high levels of asbestos dust while replacing brake pads on his vehicles and sought damages of $150,000 for medical expenses, $1 million for loss of earnings, and $1 million in general damages. The plaintiffs settled with several defendants for amounts ranging from $2,000 to $70,000. For example, the plaintiffs settled with Nissan for $2,000 and Isuzu for $50,000. Under California Code of Civil Procedure § 998, Ford made an offer to settle with plaintiffs for $10,000 and a mutual waiver of costs. The plaintiffs allowed the offer to expire and proceeded to trial. The jury found that Ford had no liability. Arguing that it had obtained a judgment more favorable than its rejected settlement offer, under § 998, Ford then sought to recover approximately $186,000 in costs from the plaintiffs, including $167,570 in expert-witness fees. The plaintiffs opposed this request, arguing that Ford’s § 998 settlement offer was a token offer and had not been made in good faith. The trial court granted Ford’s motion, and the plaintiffs appealed.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Johnson, J.)

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  • A “yes” or “no” answer to the question framed in the issue section;
  • A summary of the majority or plurality opinion, using the CREAC method; and
  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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