The Navy Fireman’s mesothelioma claim was reinstated by the Pennsylvania Court of Appeals

Published on February 16, 2023

Before his death in 2017, Thomas Phillip traced his malignant mesothelioma to the 28 months he served aboard the USS Dahlgren. He filed suit against Crane Co. and Warren Pump, alleging that as a Navy firefighter he was exposed to their asbestos-contaminated parts, but the companies argued there was no concrete evidence to support his claim. Although a lower court agreed with the companies and dismissed the case, the Pennsylvania Court of Appeals reversed that decision and allowed the case to proceed.

Mesothelioma attributed to asbestos in naval destroyer valve packing

Mr. Phillip blamed his mesothelioma diagnosis on asbestos, which he was exposed to between 1961 and 1963 when his duties on the Navy destroyer included replacing valves and pumps at the fire station. He described working in confined spaces and inhaling the dust that comes from scraping off old packaging. But Crane Co. and Warren Pump both argued that the lack of direct eyewitnesses to his having worked with their parts meant there was insufficient evidence to prove his claim.

In response to the lower court’s dismissal of his mesothelioma claim, Mr. Phillip’s executor, Joyce Korol, appealed the decision. She had taken testimony from three seamen who had served on board the Dahlgren, one of whom recalled seeing Mr Phillip at the fire station. He said he did not personally see Mr Phillip remove the packing, adding it was a requirement of their duties. The other two witnesses confirmed that the parts on board the Dahlgren came from Crane and Warren Pump.

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Court of Appeals restores mesothelioma case

In response to the appeal filed by the mesothelioma victim’s estate, the Pennsylvania Court of Appeals issued a 17-page order overturning the lower court’s decision. They said the evidence presented was not “so clear and free from doubt” to justify dismissing the case. “We conclude from that [there is] evidence sufficient to create a material factual issue as to the regularity or nature of his exposure to the defendants’ products while working aboard the USS Dahlgren.”

While the asbestos companies argued that specific evidence was needed to pursue a mesothelioma lawsuit, the judges said a direct eyewitness to asbestos exposure was not required in asbestos litigation. They said that when it comes to the presence of asbestos in the workplace, together with the frequency with which the victim would have been exposed, courts must draw reasonable conclusions and circumstantial evidence may be enough to warrant a jury trial.

If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, knowing the law and your rights is essential to getting justice. For information on how patient representatives can help, contact us today at 1-800-692-8608.

FREE Mesothelioma Pack Written by Terri Oppenheimer Terri Heimann Oppenheimer is the main author of our news blog. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. Terri believes knowledge is power, and she is committed to sharing news about the effects of mesothelioma, the latest research and medical breakthroughs, and the stories of victims.

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