Published on October 18, 2022
Ruby Lee Marie Falgout died of malignant mesothelioma last August. Before her death, she and her husband John identified the cause of her illness as asbestos exposure from when she laundered John’s clothing. They filed suit against Avondale, the shipyard where John had worked, but the company tried to evade responsibility. Last week a court agreed with the widower that the legal defense the company had mounted was inappropriate.
Mesothelioma Blamed on Secondary Exposure to Asbestos
Mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos. Though most cases of this rare and fatal cancer affect people who worked with the carcinogenic material, there are many like Ruby Lee Marie Falgout who are sickened by secondary exposure like breathing in asbestos fibers while laundering their loved ones’ asbestos-covered work clothes. It was this exposure that the Falgouts blame on Avondale Shipyards. They filed suit against the company for failing to warn of this danger.
In response to the mesothelioma lawsuit, Avondale argued that they are immune to a negligence lawsuit because they were acting as a government contractor. The Falgouts filed a motion to stop the company from using this argument, asserting that the shipyard’s failure to warn was discretionary. They pointed to several previous cases that established the requirements for using the government contractor defense.
Court Finds Shipyard’s Mesothelioma Defense Does Not Meet Legal Criteria
There have been many notable cases in which asbestos companies have sought immunity from mesothelioma victims’ claims. Each has been different, but each independently established similar criteria that must be met in order for a company to successfully argue that they could not be held responsible because their use of or management of exposure was in compliance with the federal government’s instructions to them.
In reviewing previous mesothelioma case law and the arguments made by both the Falgouts and the shipyard, the judges of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana sided with the widower. They noted that Avondale had not shown that the various rulings in favor of use of the government contractor defense applied to them. They wrote that “Avondale’s warnings, storage, and safety policies regarding asbestos are acts separate from the act that the government authorized: the use of asbestos in building government ships for the United States military” and that therefore the immunity claim would not “shield against negligence separate from acts authorized by the government.”
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, you need a strong advocate working on your behalf. Contact the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net at 1-800-692-8608 to learn how we can help.
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Written by Terri Oppenheimer
Terri Heimann Oppenheimer is the head writer of our Mesothelioma.net 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.
Learn more about and contact Terri