A New Jersey federal judge recently denied a motion to throw out a mesothelioma cancer lawsuit brought by the widow of a man who claimed he developed terminal cancer as a result of exposure to asbestos while serving aboard U.S. Navy ships. With the judge’s ruling, the lawsuit clears an important legal hurdle for the victims’ surviving spouse to hold the defendants accountable for their actions of putting her late husband and potentially other service members at risk for serious health conditions.
According to the mesothelioma cancer lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, the deceased victim was exposed to asbestos fibers while serving aboard U.S.S. Charles H. Roan in the 1960s. The source of the asbestos exposure, according to the lawsuit, was from forced draft blowers manufactured with asbestos-containing gaskets manufactured by defendant Westinghouse. Those parts needed periodical replacement, based on specifications by the U.S. Navy.
Additionally, the U.S.S. Roan was equipped with a pair of boilers manufactured by co-defendant Foster Wheeler, which were also manufactured with asbestos-containing parts, including gaskets, sheet, and packing. Those asbestos parts too were expected to be replaced periodically. Both Westinghouse and Foster Wheeler had argued in their motion for summary judgment that the U.S. Navy was in full control of any maintenance, repair, or overhaul of the ship and further dedicated the type of material that needed to be installed or replaced on the vessel. As a result, both Westinghouse and Foster Wheeler argued that they did not have a duty to warn for asbestos-containing parts manufactured by third parties.
In dismissing the defendants’ motion for summary judgement and relying on the DeVries decision, the Court found that there were numerous issues of fact that should be left for a jury to decide at trial. In their filings, Westinghouse and Foster Wheeler had asserted a number of legal defenses which put the onus on not only the U.S. Navy, but also the victim himself for failing to take precautions to protect himself while serving aboard the U.S.S. Roan. The defendants further claimed that the victim’s smoking habit constituted conduct that he knew could have caused him harm.
Fortunately for the victim’s widow, the federal judge hearing the case sided with the plaintiff and allowed the case to proceed further. The lawsuit is yet another example of the lengths to which asbestos companies will go in order to deny the necessary compensation to victims and their families to help make them whole again. Even to this day, numerous Navy veterans and shipyard workers continue to receive mesothelioma cancer diagnoses as a result of exposure to asbestos in products manufactured by companies like the defendants in this case.
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