When Navy veteran Michael Harris was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, he and his wife Beth filed negligence lawsuits against the companies he blamed for exposing him to asbestos. After his death his widow and their children continued their pursuit of justice but saw their claim against Thomas Dee Engineering Company dismissed when crucial testimony was denied admission. The Court of Appeals of California reviewed the case and reversed the lower court’s granting of summary judgement, saying that “evidentiary doubts or ambiguities” needed to be resolved in the victim’s favor, and therefore testimony regarding airborne asbestos needs to be considered by a jury.
Navy Veteran’s Mesothelioma Death Blamed on Asbestos in Shipboard Boiler Room
Michael Harris was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma in March of 2014 and by October he had died of the aggressive form of cancer. The wrongful death claim filed by his widow and children recounted his years in the Navy, and specifically his service onboard the U.S. S. San Jose when it was being repaired by Thomas Dee Engineering Company at the Triple A Machine Shop in San Francisco. Though Mr. Harris’ duties were maintenance and repair of the ship’s fire system, he was also responsible for standing watch four hours every other day, including in the boiler room.
Evidence about his exposure to asbestos in the boiler room detailed the excessive amount of asbestos that was contained in the boilers and included the mesothelioma victim’s own testimony that he had not seen boiler work performed but had spent time where it had been done. Though a witness had originally testified that “If he wasn’t present when the work was done, then I don’t think there’s be any issue regarding any exposure,” the same witness later said that Harris “did not need to be present at the exact time that the insulation block was being removed, swept up, and/or installed by Thomas Dee workers to exposed” because asbestos fibers can remain suspended and be continually re-suspended for up to 80 hours before settling out of the air. This phenomenon is known as “re-entrainment.”
Mesothelioma Case Will be Heard by Jury
The lower court sided with Thomas Dee against admitting the testimony that Harris’s mesothelioma was caused by inhaling re-suspended asbestos, but the court of appeals reversed their decision, agreeing with the family that weight should be given to the testimony because it has evidentiary value and presents a genuine issue of material fact. The case will go to a jury to decide.
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma after exposure to asbestos, it is important that you have people supporting you and fighting for your rights. For information about how the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net can help, contact us today at 1-800-692-8608.