The Court of Appeals of Washington Rejects Caterpillar’s Arguments and Allows Navy Veteran’s Widow to Recover $4.5 Million Award

For purposes of this article, the deceased Navy veteran will be referred to as E.E.

In a recent mesothelioma case, the Court of Appeals of Washington rejected arguments that Caterpillar presented and allowed a Navy veteran’s widow to recover a $4.5 million jury award. Before Navy veteran E.E. died of mesothelioma, he and his wife filed a legal claim against several companies they blamed for the illness. E.E. and his wife claimed that E.E. suffered asbestos exposure because of working with asbestos-contaminated pipe insulation while serving aboard the USS Curtiss. The USS Curtiss was the first purpose-built seaplane tender made for the U.S. Navy. E.E. and his wife also claimed that between 1955 and 1967, E.E. suffered asbestos exposure while working for several employers as a mechanic doing maintenance work on Caterpillar bulldozers. Apart from Caterpillar Inc., all the companies that were sued settled the claim out of court. Caterpillar Inc. filed a motion for summary judgment, but the court denied it. This resulted in the case against Caterpillar Inc. proceeding to court.

Unfortunately, the Navy veteran died before his case could be concluded. Fortunately, before E.E. passed away, he recorded a deposition about how he was exposed to asbestos. So in court, the jury listened to this testimony. The jury also listened to testimony from some expert witnesses and a corporate representative of the defendant. After listening to all testimonies, the jury members decided to award approximately $6.5 million in damages. E.E.’s estate was awarded $331,928 for economic damages and $3 million for E.E.’s pain and suffering. E.E.’s wife was awarded $2 million for loss of consortium, and E.E.’s children were awarded a total of $700,000. The $6.5 million award was offset by $1.5 million for other settlements that had already been reached, so in the end, the award stood at $4.5 million.

Caterpillar Inc. was unhappy with this decision, so the company appealed the decision to the Court of Appeals of Washington. According to Caterpillar Inc., the lower court erred when it refused to approve the motion for summary judgment the company filed. Caterpillar Inc. also argued that the lower court made a mistake when it refused to allow a new trial to be held or the company to vacate the verdict. The defendant believed the verdict was based on “passion and prejudice.” Caterpillar Inc. believed that the verdict should have been discarded because of this.

The Court of Appeals of Washington reviewed all the arguments presented and found that E.E.’s estate had provided enough evidence to survive summary judgment. The court found that the lower court was right to refuse to allow a new trial to be held. And regarding the defendant’s argument that the jury verdict should have been discarded, the appeals court concluded that there was enough evidence to support the jury’s decision. Ultimately, the Appeals Court of Washington allowed E.E.’s widow to keep the $4.5 million award.

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