• Jim Ferraro

Confronting the Bully

In my last several posts, I’ve been sharing a bit about my background, and the winding path I took to get to where I was, at the time I was considering whether to take on the case of the Castillo family, whose son Johnny was born blind as a result of his mother’s exposure to a toxic fungicide.

I was primarily drawn to the Castillo case because of the massive challenge it presented. Once again, I was confronting the bully. The thought of slaying the dragon—which is how I referred to DuPont at the time—was really appealing to me.

From a career point of view, if we prevailed, it would surely be my biggest and greatest conquest. This drive to win, as you now know, was cultivated in me by my father, who always demanded more from me than even I knew I had inside. But the idea of winning wasn’t the only thing motivating me. Making a difference in the lives of people who had possibly been impacted by the chemical Benlate was big.

I had already made a difference in lots of people’s lives before this opportunity came knocking. The asbestos cases I’d tried in the past allowed so many people and their families to live comfortably for the rest of their lives, even though many of those lives were already limited by the time we went to trial. Winning the case was their last hope. That’s a heavy load to carry on one’s shoulders, but I didn’t mind. It was worth it if I could, in some small way, make my clients’ lives and deaths easier.

Several years before the Castillo case, I represented a client named Vinny Casasanta in an asbestos case. Vinny was a super nice guy—one of the nicest people I’ve ever known. When we met, he was 51 years old and dying from mesothelioma. The first time Vinny and his wife came from their home in Connecticut to see me, they stayed at the Fontainebleau, the same hotel they had honeymooned in many years before. Their trip was emotional for a variety of reasons, but mostly because this would be their last hurrah, and they knew it.

Throughout his career, Vinny had worked with a toxic fireproofing spray made by W. R. Grace, a high-performance specialty chemical manufacturing company. That was our target. It was the early 1990s. I was seeking at least a $10 million verdict against the company, and at the time, I believed we had a very good chance of winning.

I will share more of his case in my next post.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you about your own upbringing, and what values your parents instilled in that have helped make you who you are today. Thank you for sharing.