Frank Williams Jr. died of malignant mesothelioma after years of working at a NASA manufacturing plant near New Orleans. Though a district court had granted The Boeing Company’s request to dismiss his lawsuit against them, the Fifth Circuit reversed the lower court’s decision, calling it “particularly troubling” that the court had called his claims of asbestos exposure “speculative.”
Asbestos in NASA Manufacturing Plant Blamed for Mesothelioma
When Williams was first diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, he immediately reviewed his work history to identify where he might have been exposed to asbestos. From 1974 to 2008 he had worked as a mechanical engineer at the Michoud Assembly Facility for Lockheed Martin, where the Saturn V rocket and the fuel tank for the Space Shuttle program were produced.
In recalling his work environment, Williams recalled the men in “moon suits” who had worked in one of the MAF buildings during the 1980s and concluded that they must have been doing asbestos remediation work in response to a risk of mesothelioma. He filed suit against Lockheed Martin Corporation, several companies that had supplied the asbestos insulation used in the buildings, and Boeing, which had maintained custody of the buildings.
Boeing’s Successful Motion to Dismiss Overturned by 5th Circuit Judges
Mr. Williams’ family presented experts who testified that his mesothelioma would have been caused by “above-average ambient background levels of asbestos” in the buildings. In response Boeing filed a motion for summary judgment, and the Eastern District of Pennsylvania federal judge overseeing the case agreed with the company that his claims of exposure were “impermissibly speculative.” He granted the company’s motion to dismiss, but the case was appealed and a three-judge panel overturned the lower court’s decision.
Writing for the 5th Circuit, Judge Leslie H. Southwick wrote that “’speculation’ would not be involved, only a potentially reasonable inference” and that was enough for the mesothelioma case to move forward. The appellate judges also ordered the lower court to reconsider Mr. Williams’ family request for discovery.
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, you need the assistance of experienced, knowledgeable advocates. For more information, contact the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net today at 1-800-692-8608.FREE Mesothelioma Packet