Asbestos Manufacturer Attempts to Escape Liability for Minnesota Man’s Mesothelioma

In an attempt to avoid responsibility for a Minnesota man’s malignant mesothelioma, an asbestos manufacturer has repeatedly argued that because they moved out of the state decades ago, they should no longer have to answer to the state’s justice system. The case involves a Minnesota resident diagnosed with the rare form of cancer after having been exposed to the carcinogen in the company’s mill from his childhood years through his adulthood. Upon hearing an appeal of a lower court’s decision on the case, the Court of Appeals of Minnesota upheld the original decision and determined that personal jurisdiction exists.

Mesothelioma Blamed on Asbestos Exposure at Minnesota Ceiling Tile Mill

The mesothelioma lawsuit was filed by Gene R. Backe and his wife Carol after he was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma in 2018. In his filing Backe recalls that his childhood home was just blocks from the Conwed Corporation asbestos ceiling tile mill in Cloquet, Minnesota. His father worked at the mill from 1939 to 1975 and would return home covered in the dust, and Backe recalls visiting his father at the plant and seeing bags of asbestos throughout the facility. He began working there himself in 1963. 

According to evidence submitted to the court, in 1959 a Conwed memorandum identified the dangers of asbestos, but the company provided no warnings about the dangers of the material for those working in their environment. The company stopped manufacturing the asbestos-containing ceiling tile in 1974 and sold the mill and left Minnesota in 1985. It is on that basis that they argued that the case against them should be dismissed. 

Lower Court’s Denial of Motion to Dismiss Upheld by Court of Appeals

In reviewing the decision in the mesothelioma lawsuit, the Minnesota Court of Appeals reviewed the circumstances surrounding the case to determine whether forcing the company to face trial in a state where it had not done business for 35 years was unfair.  The appeals court agreed with the lower court that the company’s argument was not persuasive and that Mr. Backe’s interests justify any burdens placed on the company.

The court pointed to the state’s clear interest in the case, as well as the fact that Backe had been exposed to asbestos in Minnesota, currently lived and was being treated there, and that many of the potential witnesses and medical records are in Minnesota.  

Mesothelioma victims face many challenges, but there are many resources available to help. For information about resources available to you, contact the Patient Advocates at at 1-800-692-8608.

Terri Heimann Oppenheimer

Terri Oppenheimer

Terri Heimann Oppenheimer is the head writer of our news blog. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. Terri believes that knowledge is power and she is committed to sharing news about the impact of mesothelioma, the latest research and medical breakthroughs, and victims’ stories.

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