Mesothelioma has affected people from all types of backgrounds and occupations, but few have been as affected as those who have worked in the maritime industry. Because ships rely on equipment that uses asbestos components, which often send asbestos particles into the air, many men and women who have served in the Navy and other marine environments have ended up diagnosed with the rare and fatal form of cancer. Those victims have frequently been stymied in their quest for justice, as many equipment manufacturers have successfully used what is known as the “bare metal defense,” arguing against their responsibility because they only provided the equipment, and not the parts that included the carcinogenic material. This week, the Supreme Court heard a case filed by two Navy veterans arguing against the use of this defense, and the 6 of 9 justices agreed. They ruled that in maritime settings, the manufacturers must be held to a higher standard and are therefore legally responsible for the damages that the sailors suffered.
The specific case, which is expected to have a big impact on the success of future mesothelioma lawsuits, was filed against Air & Liquid Systems Corp. by two Navy veterans, Kenneth McAfee and John DeVries. The two men were exposed to asbestos during the time that they served shipboard, and both developed asbestos-related cancers. When they filed a lawsuit against Air & Liquid Systems several years ago, the company filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the products that they manufactured did not contain asbestos, and that they should not be held responsible for illnesses caused by products that were used or added after they had fulfilled their part of a sale. However, the court held that in maritime environments, which require a higher duty of care under the Jones Act, there are three scenarios in which the original equipment manufacturer can be held liable for the damage caused by asbestos-contaminated components. Those are:
- Where the manufacturer specifies the (asbestos-contaminated) part that their equipment needs
- Where the manufacturer’s equipment includes a component that they know will need to be replaced with a component that is contaminated with asbestos
- Where the manufacturer’s product cannot operate without the asbestos-contaminated part
This ruling will open greater opportunities for justice for those who have had their lives upended by asbestos and a mesothelioma diagnosis. For more information on how this decision may affect you, contact us today at 1-800-966-2244.