Couple Wins Right to Pursue Mesothelioma Lawsuit in United States

Malignant mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Though the carcinogenic material’s use has largely been abandoned in the United States, it is still present in many products, including automobile brake linings manufactured outside of the United States. In a notable decision, the Court of Appeals of California has reversed a lower court’s decision and allowed a man diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma to present service to a Japanese manufacturer via its California subsidiary. Though the company argued that the Hague Convention governs service of process in international civil disputes, the appeals court determined that serving the company’s “general manager” in California was appropriate.

Court Reverses Lower Court Decision in Mesothelioma Lawsuit Against Brake Manufacturer

George and Christina Sweikhart filed their mesothelioma lawsuit against Akebono Brake Industry Co., Ltd. (ABIC) after Mr. Sweikhart, an automotive worker, was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma. Though the company is based in Japan, the couple served the papers to ABIC’s wholly owned American subsidiary, Akebono Brake Corporation (Akebono).  Though ABIC was established in Japan in 1929, in 1980 it incorporated Akebono in Michigan for marketing and sales in the United States. 

When Mr. Sweikhart’s attorneys served ABIC and Akebono the legal documents in his mesothelioma lawsuit, they did so through the company’s Los Angeles office. The papers were accepted, but ABIC went to court and moved to quash on the basis that the service had not complied with the Hague Convention. The company argued that it is “a Japanese company, organized under the laws of Japan, with its principal place of business in Tokyo, Japan and in Hanyu, Japan.” The company’s attorneys maintained that they have no agent for service of process in California and has never manufactured products in California. 

Mesothelioma Victim Wins Appeal Against Japanese Brake Manufacturer

Upon review of the case, the appellate judges reviewed California law and found that service of process on foreign corporations can be accomplished through “delivery by hand of a copy of any process to the ‘general manager in this state’ of a foreign corporation”, and that ‘general manager’ has been “construed to mean any agent of sufficient rank to make it reasonably certain the agent will apprise the defendant of service.“  The court reversed the lower court’s decision and the couple will be able to proceed with their lawsuit. 

A mesothelioma diagnosis means facing challenges on a daily basis, but the Patient Advocates at are here to help. Call us today 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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