Highest court to hear asbestos case involving maritime law

The U.S. Supreme Court recently agreed to hear a case involving military members and asbestos exposure. The case involves men who developed lung cancer after working on ships and in shipyards for the Navy. At issue is the liability of equipment manufacturers for replacement parts supplied by others when the replacement parts met specifications established by the manufacturers.

The manufacturers call it a “bare metal defense”, contending they should not be held liable since the original product did not include asbestos-containing components. Agreeing with the view taken by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, the plaintiffs contend such manufacturers should be held responsible when the components met the manufacturers’ specifications, when the manufacturers knew of the dangers of asbestos and failed to warn against the use of asbestos-containing components, and when the injury was reasonably foreseeable.

Maritime law is one of the few remaining areas where the federal courts apply federal common law. Since most asbestos-related cases involve claims governed by state law, the actual impact of this case’s outcome will be limited. The Supreme Court’s decision will undoubtedly be cited by the winning side as persuasive authority in future cases involving similar issues under state law.

A federal district court had granted summary judgement on behalf of several companies, but that decision was reversed on appeal by the Third Circuit. The nation’s highest court agreed to hear the case to resolve a discrepancy between the some of the federal appellate courts.

If you or someone you love has been exposed to asbestos and have developed mesothelioma or another illness as a result, you may have a case against the manufacturers and suppliers of asbestos-containing products. Reach out to a skilled personal injury attorney at our firm to learn more about your legal rights.

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