On September 20, 2017, attorneys from Levy Konigsberg earned an important legal victory from a Manhattan-based federal court in New York. Levy Konigsberg represents the estate of Mr. Jurgen Unterberg, who worked as an engineering officer on several different oil tankers from 1973 to 1978 for a company called Mobil Shipping and Transportation Company (“MOSAT”). Unfortunately, as is the case with sailors and maritime workers on many ships and tankers, Mr. Unterberg was exposed to asbestos, and that exposure caused his death from malignant mesothelioma.
To get justice for Mr. Unterberg and his family, Levy Konigsberg lawyers filed a lawsuit under the Jones Act, a federal statute that guarantees sailors a safe working environment and provides them a remedy for injuries caused by their employer’s negligence. We also brought a claim under maritime law, alleging MOSAT’s vessels weren’t seaworthy since they were fitted with asbestos.
The defendant, MOSAT, moved to dismiss the case, arguing that the New York federal court didn’t have personal jurisdiction over it. Personal jurisdiction is a fundamental limit on the power of a state to hear a case concerning a certain person or business. Generally speaking, a company is only subject to suit in states where they have sufficient contacts with the state so that it is fair for the company to defend the case in that location. MOSAT contended that it didn’t have any contacts with New York.
But LK attorney proved in this case that MOSAT, in fact, had plenty of contacts with New York. Documents that Levy Konigsberg attorneys obtained during discovery showed that New York was MOSAT’s “principal business office” during Mr. Unterberg’s employment and that MOSAT maintained significant oversight and guidance from its New York office, including with respect to vessels Mr. Unterberg served on. Indeed, the activities of MOSAT’s foreign fleet vessels were coordinated from the New York office. Most importantly, in 1982 MOSAT’s Vice President “expressed concern ‘that the presence of asbestos insulation in the engine rooms of our vessels could present a genuine health hazard to our employees.’”
MOSAT asked the court to ignore these and other relevant facts and take at face value its effort to move its headquarters operation overseas. However, the court rejected MOSAT’s request, reasoning that the 1982 letter, among other pieces of evidence gathered by Levy Konigsberg attorneys “shows the level of authority and oversight MOSAT’s New York office had,” including “making decisions and providing oversight over vessel repairs and maintenance and the health and safety of those working on the vessels.” The federal court correctly held that these ample contacts with New York satisfied not merely New York jurisdictional statutes, but the United State Constitution as well. As a result, the court denied MOSAT’s motion to dismiss, allowing the case to proceed so that Levy Konigsberg can get compensation for Mr. Unterberg’s family.
The court’s ruling is an important part of holding companies like MOSAT accountable when they put profit over health and refuse to warn their employees about the very real hazards posed by asbestos. Levy Konigsberg attorneys have handled many cases involving asbestos exposure by sailors, marines, and other workers covered by the Jones Act and maritime law. We’re proud to have been maximizing recoveries for workers, consumers, and their families for well over 30 years. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer and thinks asbestos may have caused it, the experienced legal team at Levy Konigsberg can help. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us by calling us at 1-800-988-8005, emailing us, submitting a web form, or taking advantage of the live chat function.