Three Defendants Granted Summary Judgment in Maritime Case Pending in Washington

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WASHINGTON – The plaintiff, Donald Yaw, filed a lawsuit against numerous equipment manufacturers alleging that he suffered injuries as a result of asbestos exposure. The plaintiff experienced his exposure while working as a shipfitter at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard from 1964 to 2001. The plaintiff was deposed before he passed away, but did not remember working on any particular product on any ship. The plaintiff’s expert, Captain Arnold Moore, opined that the plaintiff was exposed to asbestos while others were removing insulation, packing, and gaskets in ship engine and boiler rooms.

Three defendants moved for summary judgment, and the plaintiff moved for summary judgment as to the five remaining defendants’ affirmative defenses. The first issue argued in the defendants’ motions was that maritime law applied. The court agreed, finding that both the locality test and the connection test were met. Under maritime law, a plaintiff must show that he/she was actually exposed to asbestos-containing materials that were installed by the shipbuilders and that such exposure was a substantial contributing factor in causing his injuries. The court found that the plaintiff lacked any such evidence to meet the described threshold, given the lack of identification by the plaintiff of any products on the ships. The court similarly disregarded Moore’s opinions as he failed to identify the basis for his factual assertion that the plaintiff worked around others removing asbestos insulation. Accordingly, the court granted the three defendants’ motions for summary judgment, and denied the plaintiff’s motions for summary judgment against those defendants as moot.

Read the case decision here.