Mesothelioma Cases Need More Proof Than Mere Perception

gavel2.jpgA California man with mesothelioma, likely as a result of exposure during his military service in the U.S. Navy, filed a lawsuit against defendants saying he “just knew” the products at issue contained asbestos.

Unsurprisingly, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit recently upheld the trial court’s summary judgment in favor of the defendants.

It would be one thing if the plaintiff had made this statement, and then backed it up with a host of scientific and medical evidence. He did not. The only evidence of exposure was provided by plaintiff’s deposition testimony prior to his death. In that testimony, he recalled that he cut and installed composite paneling of a green color, but he didn’t know the name of the manufacturer. Still, he asserted that he “just knew” the product contained asbestos.

Our mesothelioma attorneys know he may have been right. However, that alone is not nearly enough evidence to prove a case successfully in these complex and lengthy actions. Companies fighting asbestos claims are typically huge corporations, sometimes worth many billions of dollars. These firms have vast access to resources to combat these claims.

The only chance the plaintiffs have of prevailing in an occupational asbestos exposure lawsuit is a solid case, complete with medical records, expert witness testimony, firsthand witness testimony, historical documents, internal company memos, and other data. You’ll need strong proof of general and specific causation, which means that you were exposed to asbestos by the defendant, that the asbestos caused your illness, and that it was the defendant’s asbestos that caused your illness, either in whole or in part. Your first-hand deposition testimony might be key, but asserting that you “just knew” asbestos was contained in those products won’t be enough. You’ll be asked to describe your work conditions, your function on the job site, whether the products you worked with were labeled as containing asbestos, what precautions (if any) your employer took to protect workers from harm, and other specific information about your tenure.

Unfortunately for this plaintiff, who died while the case was pending, there was not a bulk of evidence presented in his favor. He asserted he was exposed to asbestos while working to install panels aboard U.S. Navy vessels between 1960 and 1985. The products he said sickened him were made by defendant CBS Corporation (formerly known as Westinghouse) and were distributed by International Paper Co., another defendant.

Initially, the plaintiff testified the panels were marked as containing asbestos, but later he conceded he didn’t actually see the word “asbestos” printed directly on the panels.

While CBS admitted Westinghouse had made the paneling in question, not all of those panels were made with asbestos. Furthermore, the panels that did contain the dangerous fiber were not approved for installation in Navy ships, according to the defendants. In support of this assertion, the company provided construction specifications and internal letters that noted asbestos paneling was barred in certain vessels.

The trial court deemed the plaintiff’s testimony “internally inconsistent” and found that it alone was not enough to generate a material issue of fact that could be weighed at trial. Summary judgment for the defendant was rendered.

The appellate court agreed that this was appropriate. The panel referred to the plaintiff’s deposition testimony as “speculative,” failing to provide any evidence that would dispute the defendants’ arguments.

em>Help for mesothelioma victims can be found at The Ferraro Law Firm by calling 1-800-275-3332. Offices in Miami and Washington, D.C.

Additional Resources:
Third Circuit rules against plaintiff who ‘just knew’ asbestos was used in Navy vessels, Oct. 14, 2014, By Heather Isringhausen Gvillo, Legal Newsline

More Blog Entries:
The Ferraro Law Firm Secures A $37 Million Jury Award, Sept. 25, 2014, Florida Mesothelioma Lawyer Blog

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