Sons Represent Deceased Father in Asbestos Trial

On February 25, opening statements began in an asbestos case in Madison County. The lawsuit was filed in January, 2013, by Tom King, Sr., a former machinist and mesothelioma victim who passed away in May, 2013. Mr. King’s sons, Tom, Jr. and Brian, are representing their father in the suit against Crane Co. and John Crane Inc. A video deposition, which was recorded prior to Mr. King’s passing, will be heard by jurors.

Crane Co. and John Crane Inc. are the last remaining defendants from what began as a negligence suit against 119. The lawsuit claims that Mr. King was regularly exposed to asbestos while serving in the Navy as a machinist mate during the ’50s and ’60s. One of his tasks was to replace gaskets, and in order to do so, it was necessary to first scrape off dried, excess asbestos from the existing gasket with a brush. Crane Co., as the manufacturer of the gaskets, is being held partially responsible for Mr. King’s fatal disease. John Crane Inc., which did not deliver opening statements on February 25, is a designer and manufacturer of mechanical seals. Pipe insulation used by the Navy, and with which Mr. King came into contact, was manufactured by John Crane Inc.

Attorney Jim Lowery, representing Crane Co., argued that the pipe insulation was the cause of Mr. King’s illness, because it contained friable asbestos. “The Navy controlled every aspect of Mr. King’s life and workspace on the ship,” Lowery said, arguing that the Navy, not Crane Co., should be held responsible. The Navy, he said, elected to use asbestos-containing products despite the fact that Crane Co. manufactured products that did not contain asbestos. “We followed precise military specifications because if we didn’t, the Navy wouldn’t buy it.”

Attorney Frank Wathen delivered opening statements for the plaintiffs, and he prepared the jury for Crane’s defense that other companies were responsible. However, Madison County Associate Judge Stephen Stobbs decided to allow Crane’s argument that insulation exposure was responsible.

Prior to and during the time that Mr. King served, the Navy specifically sought to use asbestos-containing products because the material is lightweight and acts as a flame retardant. Asbestos was not banned for widespread use until the ’70s, when its harmful properties were fully understood.

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