Client Spotlight – Michael Kaplan & Sean Sasser: A love that could not be dimmed by a mesothelioma diagnosis

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There are numerous factors about the human experience that make us unique. The color of your eyes. The length of your hair. The religion you believe in. The type of food you enjoy. The people you are attracted to. While these things individually do not define you, they play a role in who you are – and who you should be proud to be! At Serling & Abramson, P.C. it is important to us to learn personal and unique things about our clients and their families to best help them through the legal process after a difficult diagnosis.

June is recognized as Pride Month – a time of year specifically dedicated to acknowledging and celebrating those who are proud to be members of the LGBTQIA+ community. Our firm is honored to work with LGBTQIA+ individuals in our office and in our community. We are proud to spotlight our former client, Sean Sasser, and his story of pride and love that could not be dimmed by his mesothelioma diagnosis.

Sasser was an advocate, educator, pastry chef, and reality television personality best known for his appearances on MTV’s “The Real World”, which portrayed his relationship to fellow AIDS advocate, Pedro Zamora. Sean and Pedro’s commitment ceremony was aired on the show nearly a decade before gay marriage was legally recognized in California. The occasion marked the first time a same sex couple’s wedding was ever aired on television. Their relationship is credited with playing a large role in breaking cultural barriers and properly portraying that two men can be in a loving, healthy relationship.

After Pedro’s death, Sean went on to continue advocating for the LGBTQIA+ community throughA picture containing person, person, music, concert band Description automatically generated speaking engagements, marches, protests, and educational opportunities. In 1995, President Bill Clinton appointed Sasser to the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS. In June 2013, Sean married his second husband, Michael Kaplan and the two of them moved to Washington D.C. where Sean served as a board member of the AIDS Alliance for Children, Youth, and Families.


Sean Sasser was active in educating the younger generation on A group of people walking Description automatically generated with medium confidenceHIV/AIDS and remained a strong advocate for the LGBTQIA+ community for the entirety of his life. While Sean himself was HIV+ for 25 years, his untimely death was the result of a mesothelioma diagnosis unrelated to his HIV+ status. At the age of 44, Sean passed away from mesothelioma due to exposure to asbestos in his younger years. Shortly thereafter, Sean’s husband, Michael sought help from Serling & Abramson, P.C. after friends told him he may want to pursue litigation surrounding Sean’s death. Not knowing anything about Sean’s exposure to asbestos, Michael put his trust in Serling & Abramson, P.C. to bring justice to Sean’s family. Our firm was able to track down exposures and successfully litigate Sean’s case – bringing justice and financial recovery for Michael and the Sasser family. You can read Michael’s story here: Michael K’s client testimony

Michael Kaplan has continued to be a voice in advocating for LGBTQIA+ individuals and a leader in the AIDS community. With more than 25 years of leadership experience, Michael has served over the years as the President and CEO of AIDS United, Executive Director of Cascade AIDS Project, and Vice President of the International HIV Program at the Academy for Educational Development, among other board positions. Since testing HIV+ in 1992, Michael has remained a strong advocate and educator through both his work and personal life.

Sean was a smart, hard-working advocate and educator who also happened to be a member of the LGBTQIA+ community. In 2020, Sasser’s name was added to the names of American “pioneers, trailblazers, and heroes” on the National LGBTQ Wall of Honor – the first National Monument dedicated to LGBTQIA+ rights, history, and leaders. While his physical life may have been taken by his harmful exposure to asbestos, his passion lives on through those he educated and inspired.