Ingalls Shipbuilding in Mississippi built and repaired vessels for many decades. It’s now known as Huntington Ingalls Industries and focuses on repairing and constructing U.S. Navy vessels. Ingalls Shipbuilding relied heavily on asbestos in the past and put workers at risk.
About Ingalls Shipbuilding
The shipyard opened in 1938 under the name Ingalls Shipbuilding Corporation. Business for Ingalls picked up rather quickly as World War II approached, with an increased need for vessels.
During the 1960s, under Litton Industries, the shipyard added a variety of ships to its construction lineup, including:
- Submarine tenders
- Nuclear submarines
The expansion came with increased construction, and by the mid-1970s, the shipyard had over 25,000 workers. The company continued to thrive and by 2001, another company, Northrop Grumman Corporation, bought it from Litton Industries.
The devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 made business decline after numerous facilities and equipment at the shipyard were destroyed beyond repair. It would take six years before another company, Huntington Ingalls Industries, took over.
Throughout numerous years while at Ingalls, workers experienced regular asbestos exposure. Ingalls was aware of the dangers of asbestos; however, little to nothing was ever done to help protect workers.
They were making large profits off of the highly toxic set of minerals, and Ingalls allowed these products at the shipyard without warning its workers of its dangers.
As people began developing life-threatening illnesses, asbestos lawsuits began mounting up. By 1991, over 3,000 former workers had filed asbestos lawsuits against the shipyard.
Ingalls Shipbuilding and Asbestos Lawsuits & Claims
Although Ingalls did acknowledge asbestos exposure at the job site, it did not get them off the hook for a massive amount of asbestos-related lawsuits. Back then, it was rare for a shipyard to acknowledge that they knew of the dangers of the toxic carcinogen.
In most cases, shipyard workers filed asbestos lawsuits against the asbestos manufacturers. In the case of Ingalls, however, the company itself was the centerpiece of many major asbestos lawsuits, including the case of Robert and Louise Overly.
The Overly couple filed a lawsuit against Ingalls Shipbuilding in the 1990s after Robert was diagnosed with mesothelioma. Robert was an employee of the company Westinghouse, and part of his work requirements included traveling to Ingalls during the 1960s to do field engineer work.
Court documents indicate that the shipyard exposed the plaintiff to “several types of asbestos insulation products, including pipe covering, block insulation, cement, and tape.”
“The Overlys’ claims against Ingalls are based on Robert’s asbestos exposure while he was employed by Westinghouse to work on ships under construction at Ingalls’ shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi,” the lawsuit claimed.
“Their general theory of negligence is that Ingalls knew or should have known about the dangers of asbestos and nevertheless exposed Robert to those dangers without providing any warning or protection.”
Robert testified that he was not aware and never informed that asbestos could end up hurting him; furthermore, he testified that not only was he never notified by Ingalls about asbestos, but that he was never offered any sort of protective gear that could have helped protect him from excessive asbestos exposure.
Other workers took the stand during Robert’s mesothelioma trial and testified that they, too, were ever offered protective and safety gear.
Another witness for the prosecution, Dr. Barry Castleman, showed damning evidence that the shipyard knew about or should have known about the high levels of asbestos and how it could affect workers.
For instance, it was brought up in court that in 1942 the United States Maritime Commission sent out memos to shipyards discussing the dangers to people who inhale or ingest asbestos. Meetings were held to discuss how to reduce exposure and keep workers safe.
Further, George Bryan, who was the safety director at Ingalls at the relevant time, testified that no shipyard workers were required to wear safety masks; however, he added that the masks were available if the workers wanted them. Regardless, Robert was never once told that he should wear a mask to avoid asbestos.
Robert won his trial.
In December 1996, both Ingalls Shipbuilding and Westinghouse, along with the shipyard owner of Avondale, were found liable for Robert developing a fatal disease. The plaintiff won $400,000 in non-economic damages and $25,000 for loss of consortium.
Another worker, Jefferson Yates, developed asbestosis and chronic bronchitis after working as a shipfitter for over ten years at Ingalls. He filed an asbestos claim against the company, but instead of going to trial, Ingalls settled the claim out of court.
Ingalls Shipbuilding Today
Ingalls Shipbuilding remains open today and sits on 800 acres of land in Pascagoula. It continues to be one of the largest suppliers of warships to the U.S. Navy.
According to the shipyard’s official website, “Ingalls is the largest manufacturing employer in Mississippi and a major contributor to the economic growth of Mississippi and Alabama.”Get Your FREE Mesothelioma Packet
Page Edited by Patient Advocate Dave Foster
Dave has been a mesothelioma Patient Advocate for over 10 years. He consistently attends all major national and international mesothelioma meetings. In doing so, he is able to stay on top of the latest treatments, clinical trials, and research results. He also personally meets with mesothelioma patients and their families and connects them with the best medical specialists and legal representatives available.