Notable Asbestos Cases in Oregon

For far too many years, hard-working men and women who suffered illness, and sometimes death, due to asbestos exposure had insufficient recourse against the responsible parties. People working in many industries, including construction, automotive, and shipbuilding, had frequent contact with asbestos. Even now, asbestos is found in many products and buildings. Fortunately, the legal system has responded so that victims can hold responsible those parties who negligently or intentionally caused harm by exposing employees to asbestos. In this article, we’ll look at some notable Oregon legal cases involving asbestos.

Mesothelioma After Navy Service

McKenzie v. A.W. Chesterson Co., et al. is an interesting and important case decided by the Oregon Court of Appeals in 2016. In that case, Mr. and Mrs. McKenzie sued multiple defendants, including Warren Pumps, LLC, in a products liability and negligence action. The husband and wife contended that Mr. McKenzie developed mesothelioma as a result of asbestos exposure after serving on aircraft carriers during his Navy career. Unfortunately, Mr. McKenzie died during the litigation. Mrs. McKenzie continued with the case.

Warren Pumps sold pumps to the Navy and Mr. McKenzie sometimes worked with them. At the time the pumps were purchased, they had gaskets, packaging material, and insulation which contained asbestos. However, Warren Pumps did not manufacture the parts with asbestos – they purchased them from third parties. Throughout his career, Mr. McKenzie had to replace packing inside the pumps, which contained asbestos. He also worked on replacing gaskets in the pumps. These gaskets also contained asbestos. The pump company never provided any warnings about the dangers of working with asbestos associated with the pumps.

Interestingly, by the time that Mr. McKenzie worked on the aircraft carrier and had exposure to the pumps, the original parts containing asbestos had been replaced. In other words, even though the replacement parts also contained asbestos, they were not provided by Warren Pumps. Thus, the defendant asserted a defense sometimes called “the bare metal defense.” The pump company contended that it only made metal pumps that it sold to the Navy. The trial court agreed with the defendant and threw the case against the pump company out of court.

The Court of Appeals disagreed, noting that the pumps came with asbestos-containing parts, not as bare metal. Additionally, the court found that Mrs. McKenzie could continue pursuing her claim because the pump company had a duty to warn users of the dangers posed by asbestos parts sold with the pumps because the pumps reached users in the condition originally sold. This did not change just because some of the parts had been replaced by the time Mr. McKenzie worked on them.

Mesothelioma After Construction Career

In Purcell v. Asbestos Corporation, LTD, et al., the plaintiff worked as a machinist and an electrician. He was exposed to asbestos at over 100 sites in his career, including shopping centers, schools, paper mills, jails, and hotels. The plaintiff was ultimately diagnosed with mesothelioma and sued 18 defendants under negligence and strict liability theories, including claims that the defendants did not provide sufficient warnings. Prior to trial, the plaintiff reached settlements with most defendants, and proceeded to trial against only two – E.J. Bartells Company and Owens-Corning Fiberglass.

The jury awarded $307,000 in economic damages and $1.5 million in non-economic damages against both defendants. The jury also awarded $3 million in punitive damages against Owens-Corning. On appeal, each defendant contended that the plaintiff failed to prove that its products alone caused the disease. The Oregon Supreme Court disagreed with the defendants and discussed the “substantial factor” test. This test states that when multiple defendants cause harm, if the actions of any defendant is a substantial factor in causing the plaintiff’s harm, then it can be held liable.

Portland Area Construction Worker

In a recent case, a 65-year-old man who contracted mesothelioma sued the manufacturer of a product applied to drywall and sanded by construction workers during the ‘70s. The plaintiff was exposed to the product, which contained asbestos. According to The Oregonian, evidence showed that the manufacturer had knowledge of the hazards presented by its product before the plaintiff was exposed to it. A jury found in favor of the plaintiff, and awarded a total of $8.75 million.

Holding Accountable Those Responsible for Illness

The cases above illustrate important ways in which the law in Oregon strives to protect our citizens and hold responsible those who wrongfully cause disease and illness. At Nelson MacNeil Rayfield, we also believe in holding accountable those who wrongfully cause illness and injury. We are familiar with the laws and the ways they protect Oregonians. If you have been exposed to asbestos, and have questions about your rights, please call us for a free consultation.


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