Asbestos suit for exposure in the navy allowed to move forward

The plaintiff in a lawsuit seeking damages for exposure to asbestos fibers that originated in North Carolina received a favorable ruling from the United States District Court for the District of Eastern Pennsylvania. Defendant Crane Company had asked the court to dismiss the case because the plaintiff could not prove that he was exposed to Crane’s products.

The plaintiff served in the United States Navy from 1954 to 1957, and he alleges that he was exposed to asbestos fibers during his service. Crane manufactured a number of asbestos-containing products, including valve gaskets and pipe insulation, that were commonly used on Navy vessels. The plaintiff started his lawsuit in the Western District of North Carolina in 2012, but it was transferred to Pennsylvania by the panel on Multi-District Litigation.

Crane argued that the maritime law applies to the case and that it had no duty to warn persons such as plaintiff who were likely to come in contact with its asbestos-containing products. Crane also argued that it was not liable because it was a government contractor and that the Navy was aware of the hazards of asbestos exposure. Crane asserted that it supplied warnings that conformed to the Navy’s requirements.

The court denied Crane’s motion because it found testimony given by plaintiff in his deposition that he was exposed to asbestos dust from gaskets and packing used in valves aboard the ship on which he served. Based on this testimony, the judge ruled that the plaintiff was entitled to submit his claims to a jury.

The ruling does not necessarily mean that the plaintiff will prevail when the case is tried, but the ruling will help other plaintiffs claiming damages from asbestos product exposure while serving in the Navy, the Coast Guard or the U.S. Merchant Marine.

Source: Legal Newsline, “Summary judgment denied over contradicting evidence on warning labels in asbestos case,” Heather Isringhausen Gvillo, Nov. 10, 2014