It will be interesting to see how new right-leaning Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh will view the third case he hears as a member of the highest court in the land, which is a product liability case filed by the widows of U.S. Navy veterans who developed asbestos diseases during their time of service to the country.
Interesting because the man who appointed Kavanaugh – Donald Trump – seems to have a love for asbestos, referring to it as a much-maligned substance that could have saved the World Trade Center if it had been in those buildings.
He’s also referred to the anti-asbestos movement – the one that’s trying so hard to have the toxic mineral banned – as a movement that’s run by the mob. Furthermore, Trump’s EPA has recently passed a law that will open the door for new uses of the hazardous substance.
So, when the case of DeVries versus Air and Liquid Systems Corporation et al comes before the Supreme Court, many will be waiting to see how Kavanaugh votes and whether that vote is aligned with the facts presented.
The case against Air and Liquid Systems also names other large companies that supplied equipment for the Navy, equipment that typically contained asbestos parts or used asbestos insulation added by third-part companies, which are now bankrupt.
The court will need to decide whether the companies can be held liable under maritime law for injuries to the sailors that were caused by asbestos they did not make, sell or distribute.
Rather, the Navy added asbestos to their products after they were purchased.
It’s a tricky situation, reports Bloomberg Law, especially since injuries which occur “at sea” are not inside the territorial boundaries of any of the 50 states. Hence, they will be subject to general maritime law, which is often based on past decisions in similar cases.
“Although the resolution of manufacturers’ responsibilities for wear parts is an important issue in maritime law, the vast majority of asbestos lawsuits involve state law claims which are not directly affected by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision under maritime law,” explained an attorney for the widows.
But because the products could not properly function without the use of asbestos, lawyers for the plaintiffs will argue “foreseeability”, meaning that harm caused by asbestos was foreseeable by the companies because it was clear that asbestos would enter the picture.
No doubt that both sides of the asbestos issue will be watching as oral arguments begin today.
*Note: The U.S. Navy and all the other armed forces of the U.S. are exempt from liability, which is why suits are filed against the suppliers of asbestos-containing products.