Federal Judge Issues Ruling Protecting Rights of Navy Servicemen to Bring Mesothelioma Lawsuits Against Government Contractors

Federal Judge from New York’s Southern District Court rules in favor of a former Navy boilerman who developed mesothelioma as a result of exposure to asbestos contained in ship equipment supplied by a government contractor. The ruling denied a defendant’s attempt to seek legal immunity under the government contractor defense, and thus preserving the rights of Navy servicemen, who have developed asbestos-related diseases from their military service, to bring lawsuits against product manufacturers.

boilerman at uss kitty hawk cv 63NEW YORK, New York, January 13, 2011 - In an oral ruling issued from the bench, the Honorable James S. Gwin, a Federal Judge from the US District Court of the Southern District of New York, denied attempts by defendant Foster Wheeler to seek legal immunity under the government contractor defense. Foster Wheeler supplied ship equipment containing asbestos, to which plaintiff Michael Curry was exposed during his service onboard USS Kitty Hawk (CVA-63), causing his mesothelioma cancer.

Thousands of servicemen were exposed to asbestos from the use of products sold to the United States Navy by private companies. These private companies, known as “government contractors” have attempted to prevent Navy servicemen from suing them based on a legal defense known as the “government contractor defense”. These private companies, who made asbestos-containing products, claim that they should be immune from lawsuits because they provided asbestos-containing products that were approved by the United States Navy. If this defense were to be successful, Navy servicemen, who have developed asbestos-related diseases, including mesothelioma, during their military service could have been barred from filing any lawsuits against product manufacturers.

Michael Curry, who is represented by the mesothelioma law firm Levy Konigsberg LLP has brought a lawsuit1 against Foster Wheeler and other companies, seeking compensation for his cancer that he developed as a result of being exposed to asbestos contained in the boiler equipment manufactured by Foster Wheeler and used on the aircraft carrier he served on from 1963 through 1965. Foster Wheeler however requested that the Court dismiss the lawsuit based on the “government contractor defense”. The boiler manufacturer argued that the boiler was sold to the Navy under a government contract and the product was approved by the United States Navy.

Jerome H. Block and Jim Kramer, the mesothelioma lawyers representing the plaintiff, argued to the Court that the United States Navy did not prevent the boiler manufacturer from providing warnings about the hazards of asbestos associated with the maintenance and repair of the boiler. The plaintiff’s attorneys further argued that nothing prevented the boiler manufacturer from fulfilling its obligations under its government contract and also satisfying its state-law obligations to provide adequate product warnings.

The Court found that there had not been any showing that there was a “specific government decision” to not allow product manufacturers to provide warnings about asbestos. The Court also stated that the boiler manufacturer’s attempt to use the government contractor defense, under the facts presented, “as a matter of policy... makes no sense.”

According to Block, “This ruling is a victory for the men and women who have served honorably in the United States Navy and were exposed to asbestos by no fault of their own. Companies that failed to issue warnings about asbestos should be brought to justice. This decision recognizes that Navy servicemen who have developed diseases, such as mesothelioma, are entitled to maintain these lawsuits and have them decided by juries.”

For over a quarter of a century, mesothelioma lawyers at Levy Konigsberg LLP have been among the pioneers of asbestos litigation in America. The firm’s attorneys have been recognized as nationwide leaders in representing the rights of mesothelioma victims and their families. Their clients have received some of the largest mesothelioma compensation verdicts in the country.

For more information about this or other mesothelioma lawsuits, please contact Levy Konigsberg LLP at 212-605-6200 or 1-800-MESO-LAW (1-800-637-6529), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

ATTENTION: Mesothelioma has no known cure and often causes severe pain, suffering, and other types of damage, such as loss of consortium, and loss of income. Additionally, due to the exceedingly high cost of mesothelioma treatments, many families exhaust savings and accumulate financial debt in order to pay for the medical expenses of their family member.

Under the law of most states, pain and suffering from mesothelioma may be compensated through the award of money damages, usually obtained with the help of experienced mesothelioma attorneys. In some states other types of damages may also be recovered.

Asbestos litigation affords mesothelioma victims the opportunity to receive financial compensation and hold accountable the companies that caused their asbestos exposure.

IMPORTANT: If you or your family member has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you should get in touch with a mesothelioma lawyer as early as possible to determine if you have a mesothelioma case and to:

  • Preserve your rights to bring a legal action against the responsible parties within the limited time frame allowed by law, known as statute of limitations;
  • Obtain maximum compensation in your case by being able to:
    • Preserve evidence and establish facts of the asbestos exposure while the claimant is still alive and able to provide information;
    • File and resolve a lawsuit against the responsible parties before they file for bankruptcy or, if they already have, to obtain compensation before their bankruptcy trust funds run out of money;
  • Expedite your case, as courts tend to give higher priority to mesothelioma lawsuits where the claimant is still alive.

Find out whether you have a case by speaking to one of our experienced mesothelioma lawyers via our 24/7 toll-free hotline at 1-800-MESO-LAW (1-800-637-6529) or by submitting an email inquiry (see form above). Our attorneys will be quick to respond to you and happy to answer all of your questions.

NOTE: While our offices are located in the states of New York, New Jersey, and Georgia, many of our mesothelioma lawyers are licensed to practice law in a number of U.S. states and have the capability and extensive experience of representing mesothelioma clients throughout the United States.

1 Michael Curry, et al., vs. American Standard, et al., No. 7:08-CV-10228 (S.D.N.Y.).

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