Plaintiff’s Attorney Jessica Dean Obtains Posthumous Justice for Her Clients and Their Families

Jessica Dean attorney sitting with hands folded in her lap. She is wearing a blue dress. In the background are Greek columns shown in black and white that look like they belong to a state supreme courthouse.

Growing up one of eight children in a working-class family, attorney Jessica Dean developed compassion for the hardworking men and women on the front lines of America’s biggest industries. She saw her father work up to 80 hours a week manufacturing airplane parts for McDonnell Douglas. He came home exhausted but was proud of the work he did to support his family.

Dean’s early life experiences played a significant role in her choosing a career in the legal industry. As a partner at Dean Omar Branham Shirley, LLP, Jessica Dean represents workers who have sustained serious and life-threatening injuries due to their employer’s negligence.

How Jessica Dean Fights for the Families of Deceased Workers

One of the most heart-wrenching situations Dean handles in her career as a plaintiff’s attorney is seeking justice for injured workers who don’t always survive until the end of the trial. Some injured workers have already passed away when their family contacts her for the first time. She recently spoke about the case of 67-year-old Jerry “Doy” Coogan from Kettle Falls, Washington. Coogan died of mesothelioma in 2015 due to years of asbestos exposure on the job.

Coogan’s job with Genuine Parts Company involved manufacturing brake pads and other automobile accessories containing asbestos. Genuine Parts Company sold its vehicle parts through the National Automotive Parts Association (NAPA). Coogan’s family hired lawyer Jessica Dean to file a lawsuit against both companies. After 12 weeks, the jury returned a verdict of $81.5 million. The final amount included interest of nearly $15 million.

Asked for comment after trial, Jessica Dean had this to say:

“Many sellers of friction parts, such as brakes, clutches, and gaskets, have known for nearly a century that their products contain asbestos and can kill. But they refuse to acknowledge their responsibility. Even worse, some continued to sell these products until 2001, which means that other families will surely suffer the same fate.”

In her 19 years of practicing law, Dean has seen one theme come up repeatedly: People who have suffered long, painful illnesses — and family members who have lost loved ones to mesothelioma and other work-related diseases — don’t want to see anyone else go through the same thing they did. These plaintiffs and family members don’t sue out of vengeance, but rather they do so out of a sense of moral obligation to protect those who come behind them.

Appellate Court Orders New Trial

Genuine Parts Company and NAPA immediately appealed the lower court’s verdict based on the amount of damages awarded. The appellate court upheld two major objections. The first was that the trial court didn’t allow a defense witness selected by the two companies to take the stand. The second objection concerned what the appellate court called subjective determination when determining how much pain and suffering Coogan endured.

The appellate court didn’t dispute the fact that the jury found Genuine Parts Company and NAPA liable for causing Coogan’s mesothelioma symptoms. However, it argued that the $81.5 million verdict was excessive and ordered a new trial to determine monetary damages.

Attorney Jessica Dean Represents Coogan Family in Washington Supreme Court Case

Jessica Dean felt the appellate court had erred in its interpretation of the original verdict by the trial court. She assured Gerri Coogan, Doy Coogan’s widow, she would continue to represent the family and take the case to the Washington Supreme Court.

On July 8, 2021, the Washington Supreme Court justices unanimously agreed that the appellate court had “overstepped its limited role and inappropriately substituted its own judgment for that of the trial court, and most importantly, the jury.” The justices further stated that the appellate court had not properly considered that the trial court dismissed the defendants’ witness as speculative and unfairly prejudiced toward the two defendants. The decision ended by acknowledging that the trial court verdict had substantial evidence to support it.

Jessica Dean Comments on the Washington Supreme Court Decision

Attorney Jessica Dean began her post-trial comments by paying tribute to her client’s deceased husband. “Doy Coogan had no idea that he was being exposed to deadly asbestos from just doing what he enjoyed,” she said.

Dean talked about how Coogan learned how to excavate from his grandfather. He operated and repaired construction equipment, such as cranes and backhoes, made by the defendants that exposed him to asbestos. Coogan enjoyed restoring classic cars and hot rods. He frequently purchased parts for these cars from his local NAPA store in northeast Washington. Unfortunately, these parts also contained asbestos.

With regard to the jury and the Washington Supreme Court decision, Jessica Dean stated the following:

“More than anything, I’m grateful the court respected the decision of the jury who sacrificed months of their lives to hear about this case. The message from the Supreme Court is that we trust juries to do their jobs.”Jessica Dean came a long way from her early days as a law student. She graduated from the University of Texas School of Law in 2003 and gained her first bar admission later that year in Texas. She went on to gain bar admissions in California and Pennsylvania and three district court admissions over the next nine years. In June 2021, Jessica Dean learned that Lawdragon named her a Top 500 Plaintiff Consumer Attorney for that year. Trey Branham, a legal partner at Dean Omar Branham Shirley, LLP, states that she is extremely deserving of this award. “Jessica is a lawyer dedicated to her clients and to the cause of justice. She’s one of the most accomplished, successful, and professional mesothelioma lawyers in the country. This is an honor that’s well-deserved.”

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