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U.S. Supreme Court hears asbestos case

Asbestos-ship-shipyard-mesothelioma-Navy.jpg

The United States Supreme Court recently heard an asbestos-related case, addressing the issue of third-party liability. This is one of the first cases heard by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the newest member of the Supreme Court.

In Air and Liquid Systems Corp. v. Devries, the Court considered the case of two women - both widows of Navy soldiers. The widows sued 50+ companies for asbestos exposure on Navy ships, which they believe ultimately led to their husbands' deaths. The two men developed lung cancer.

These 50+ companies contracted with the Navy. After the equipment was acquired by the Navy, asbestos insulation was applied to it for temperature regulation purposes. The equipment was dependent on the asbestos-containing insulation, but that insulation was applied by a third party.

The question facing the Court was that of liability: Can these 50+ companies be held liable because their products rely on asbestos-containing insulation to safely operate - even though the products themselves did not contain asbestos?

Because the asbestos exposure occurred at sea, this case falls under Maritime Law.

This case brings to mind the "bare metal" defense, a controversial argument designed to protect product manufacturers from liability because they didn't apply the asbestos, even though it is clear the products they designed and manufactured were dependent on asbestos for their operation.

As the Court continues to carefully weigh the case, we will be keeping an eye on it and similar cases that affect our clients and others affected by asbestos-related diseases.

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