DeRobertis-450x578L. Richard DeRobertis

Born in Tucson, Arizona, Rick lived and went to school in the San Francisco Bay Area. He graduated from Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California at Berkeley in 1979. He began practicing law in Los Angeles at a law firm that emphasized environmental and natural resources law in 1979. In 1982, Rick moved to Hawaii and worked at a corporate law firm, the third largest firm in the state. In June, 1983, he joined the Galiher law firm to represent claimants with mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.

Rick became the lead appellate lawyer in the firm. Although Rick had previously practiced in the environmental law area, his work with the firm allowed him to do the kind of law he really wanted: helping workers and their families against manufacturers of defective products.

Appellate Victories

Being in the asbestos litigation at the early stages, afforded Rick the opportunity to help shape the law upon which asbestos claimants base their cases. As some people may know, most of the law upon which personal injury claimants rely upon to sue for damages is judge-made law, not law from statutes “written in the books”. Thus asbestos claimants rely upon law that is developed by appellate courts, not law enacted into statutes by state legislatures or Congress.

Rick is gratified to note that he has won virtually every significant legal issue on appeal to the federal and state appellate courts. These important legal decisions include:

  • In Hawaii Federal Asbestos Cases, 980 F.2d 806 (9th Cir. 1992). This case is a virtual magna carta for Navy and Shipyard asbestos victims. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that the asbestos manufacturers were not entitled to the Superseding Cause defense, nor the military contract defense, and asbestos claimants did not have to use a heightened standard to prove asbestos exposure to their products. Also, joint and several liability was affirmed against asbestos manufacturers.
  • Johnson v Raybestos-Manhattan, 69 Hawaii 157, 740 P.2d 548 (1987) and Johnson v Raybestos-Manhattan, 829 F.2d 907 (9th Cir. 1987). In these companion appellate decisions, the federal and state courts ruled that asbestos manufacturers could not claim ignorance that their asbestos products caused cancer as a defense to claims they were liable for their defective products.
  • Hao v Owens-Illinois, 69 Hawaii 231, 738 P.2d 416 (1987). In this case, the appellate court agreed that the asbestos manufacturer was liable for at least its own percentage fault, and not a complete “take nothing” defense, if the jury found a lung cancer victim 51% at fault for smoking. Thus another defense claimed by asbestos manufacturers was stricken on appeal.
  • Carvalho v Raybestos-Manhattan, 794 F.2d 454 (9th Cir. 1986); Carvalho v Johns-Manville, 871 F.2d 891 (9th Cir. 1989); In re Asbestos Cases, 847 F.2d 523 (9th Cir. 1988). In this series of appeals, the federal courts held that if asbestos manufactures wanted to argue that asbestos claims were filed too late then they had the burden to prove three things (i) the asbestos victim knew his or her cancer was asbestos related, and (ii) knew that the manufacturers violated a duty to him or her, and (iii) the causal relation between the first 2 elements. This was the opposite of rulings in some other courts that were throwing out asbestos law suits when the person did not file suit shortly after his asbestos exposure ended.

As Rick likes to say: Winning a jury verdict does little good if it just gets reversed on appeal. Rick has ensured that all of Galiher DeRobertis Waxman’s hard-won jury verdicts have been upheld on appeal.