Government Fails in Second Attempt at Quashing Mesothelioma Trial

Geraldine Rabb Perkins died of malignant mesothelioma after years of living downwind from her husband’s worksite — the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. Her family blames both airborne asbestos fibers and exposure to the mineral while laundering her husband’s work clothes for her illness and death and has sued the U.S. government. With a court date scheduled for next month, the United States filed a second claim to dismiss the case, but the district court has again denied their petition for dismissal.

Puget Sound Naval Shipyard

Woman’s Mesothelioma Blamed on Para-Occupational and Environmental Exposure

The original mesothelioma claim filed by Mrs. Perkins’ family details the multiple exposures to asbestos she suffered as a result of governmental negligence at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, both from the fiber being carried home on her husband’s work clothes and from windborne fibers being blown to their nearby home. Mr. Perkins served there as a Navy machinist mate from 1968 to 1970, and after serving in Vietnam and being sent for training in California, returned to the shipyard until 1972. 

The mesothelioma victim’s family submitted evidence that the Navy was aware of both para-occupational and environmental asbestos exposures as of 1976 and issued regulations regarding asbestos in 1970 regarding its handling. In 1971 instructions were sent that encompassed all of the Navy’s shipyards. Based on this information, Mrs. Perkins’ family filed a negligence claim in September 2022.

Second Motion to Dismiss Mesothelioma Claim Fails  

In 2023, a motion to dismiss the mesothelioma victim’s claim was denied. That argument had focused on whether the government had been required to provide Mr. Perkins with protective clothing. In its more recent argument against liability, the government argued that it is immune from suit as a result of sovereign immunity and that a discretionary function exception insulates it from being second-guessed.

In its decision, the court noted that there are questions of fact about whether some of the asbestos regulations were mandatory and whether the government had followed some of the rules that were unquestionably requirements. They also agreed that there were sufficient issues of fact about whether the harms Mrs. Perkins suffered as a result of environmental exposure were foreseeable based on the information that the government had at the time.  In its conclusion, the court wrote, “There are simply too many issues of fact on foreseeability and causation, precluding summary judgment for the government.”The case will move forward and is scheduled to be heard in early June.

If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, the Patient Advocates at can help. Contact 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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