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To succeed in an asbestos exposure case, the plaintiff must prove that asbestos attributable to the defendant was a cause of the plaintiff’s injury. Causation in asbestos cases can be complex, with defendants often arguing that the plaintiff cannot prove that he or she was specifically exposed to sufficient asbestos from the defendant to cause the injury.
The Southern District of Illinois recently considered the issue of causation in Watts v. 84 Lumber Company. The plaintiff in Watts had worked aboard ships in the Navy. His job included replacing gaskets on valves, pumps, and boilers. The plaintiff testified that he replaced flange gaskets hundreds of times, using replacements from three manufacturers, including Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. After contracting lung cancer, the plaintiff filed suit against a number of defendants, including Goodyear. Goodyear moved for summary judgment.
The plaintiff testified that he used a scraper or chisel to remove the old dry and cracked gaskets, creating dust. Sometimes he used prefabricated replacement gaskets, and sometimes sheet gaskets that he would have to cut from a sheet. The plaintiff testified that there was always dust in the packaging for the prefabricated gaskets. Cutting the sheet gaskets also created asbestos dust.
To determine causation, the court looked to a Supreme Court of Illinois case, Thacker v. UNR Industries, Inc. Thacker requires a plaintiff to show that he worked regularly in an area where asbestos from the defendant was frequently used, and he worked sufficiently close to the area to come in contact with the defendant’s product. The plaintiff must meet this “frequency, regularity and proximity test” to be able to present the question of legal causation to the jury.
The defendant argued that there was not any evidence the plaintiff worked around or with its products containing asbestos. The plaintiff had stated that he had used gaskets manufactured by Goodyear. He said he had replaced large numbers of gaskets, and doing so created dust that he inhaled. The plaintiff had engaged in this work regularly for about three years. There were records that the defendant’s products were on Navy ships up to 1973. The plaintiff had established sufficient issues of material fact to allow the case to move forward.
Causation can sometimes be difficult to prove in asbestos exposure cases. Our mesothelioma attorneys know how to investigate a case to find information to support the case against the defendants.
Help for mesothelioma victims can be found at The Ferraro Law Firm by calling (888) 554-2030. Offices in Miami and Washington, D.C.
Watts v. 84 Lumber Company, January 28, 2016, United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois
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