A New York court recently denied a bid by a defendant in an asbestos cancer lawsuit to have the case thrown out and instead sided with the plaintiff, ruling that the issue of credibility to the plaintiff’s testimony is a question that should be left to a jury. In denying defendant Baltimore Aircoil Company Inc.’s motion for summary judgement, the court ruled that the company had not met the legal standards to show that its products could not have caused the plaintiff’s injury.
According to the mesothelioma cancer lawsuit, filed in New York County Supreme Court, the plaintiff worked as an air conditioning mechanic as an upperclassman in high school and subsequently continued working full time after graduating. In his deposition testimony, the plaintiff stated that he frequently worked on cooling towers manufactured by Baltimore Aircoil Company, specifically at the Squibb Building, the World Trade Center, and at Rockefeller University.
In his testimony, the plaintiff described the characteristics of the cooling towers he asserts were produced by Baltimore Aircoil Company. Those features include the shape of the cooling towers, ventilation louvers, and brackets. The plaintiff further described the asbestos containing gaskets that he would replace as a regular and frequent part of his maintenance duties while working on the cooling towers manufactured by Baltimore Aircoil Company. The plaintiff testified that while cleaning and scraping off the old gaskets, the process created visible dust that he inhaled.
In bringing their motion for summary judgment to dismiss the case, the defendant claimed that their cooling towers did not contain any asbestos-containing parts and therefore their product could not have been the cause of the victim’s mesothelioma diagnosis. Attorneys for Baltimore Aircoil Company pointed to testimony from one of its corporate representatives who claimed that the design of its cooling towers did not utilize asbestos-containing products.
However, as the judge hearing the case pointed out, the defendant’s corporate representative was not employed by Baltimore Aircoil Company during the relevant time which the plaintiff claims he was exposed to asbestos in the defendant’s cooling towers. The judge determined that there were issues of facts as to whether the plaintiff was exposed to asbestos from the defendant’s cooling towers and that those issues would be left to the jury to decide.
Asbestos was once commonly used in a variety of commercial and industrial applications for its heat resistant properties, including gaskets used in a variety of products. Although asbestos was not effectively banned until the 1970s, companies knew for decades about the health risks associated with asbestos exposure but did not provide warnings or notice to those at risk for exposure.
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