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Court Denies Motion for Case Dismissal Based on Jurisdiction

Published on Jan 7, 2022 at 8:47 am in News.

Frost Law Firm, PC is proud to represent Dale M. Spurlin, a Navy veteran, in taking legal action against the manufacturing companies whose alleged negligence led to countless mesothelioma diagnoses among military service members, including his own. We are currently advocating for Mr. Spurlin and his wife Mary Spurlin as they work to hold these companies accountable for the actions they believe exposed many individuals to asbestos.

In a recent federal court decision, a motion made by the defendants—a group of asbestos manufacturing companies—to have the case dismissed was denied. This is an important victory and another step toward justice for mesothelioma patients and their families. With this decision, the manufacturers of the asbestos-containing equipment our client claims led to his mesothelioma diagnosis will not be allowed to shirk responsibility for their actions, but will instead face a jury as the case proceeds forward.

During his time of active duty, Mr. Spurlin served on two Navy ships, the USS McGinty and the USS Rowan. Among other responsibilities, he acted as a boiler tender, working in a fire room to operate and maintain boilers and related equipment. His duties required him to be in regular contact with gaskets, and packing that contained asbestos, a chemical that is the only known cause of the cancer mesothelioma. After learning of his malignant mesothelioma diagnosis, Mr. Spurlin and his wife made the decision to hire Frost Law Firm, PC to represent them in filing a lawsuit against the defendant.

The defendant in this case are several manufacturing companies our client is bringing legal action against for their alleged involvement in the asbestos exposure that led to his mesothelioma diagnosis. After more than two years of litigation, during which the companies made multiple attempts to have the case dismissed, the defendants again filed a motion for dismissal by claiming that the Federal Court lacks jurisdiction over the case. The Court, however, disagreed. It was recently announced that District Judge Anthony J. Battaglia of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California had denied a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction filed by the defendants.

In their argument, the defendants claimed that the Court lacks jurisdiction over this case because they are entitled to “derivative sovereign immunity” pursuant to the 1940 case Yearsley v. W.A. Ross Construction Co. The term “derivative sovereign immunity” refers to immunity that shields a government contractor from liability. As part of the derivative sovereign immunity defense, the claim is that a company contracted by the government has no discretion in the design process, and simply follows orders to manufacture a product to government specifications. In this case, the defendants argued that they cannot be held liable for following government orders. The Court disagreed with the defendant’s arguments.

Among several points of disagreement—that the immunity of the Yearsley case is not a jurisdictional bar, and that the defendants are not entitled to Yearsley immunity—the Court pointed out that the manufacturing companies’ failure to provide warnings of the asbestos (and related risks) contained in their products was not part of their government contract. There was no evidence that a lack of warning labels could be attributed to the company’s compliance with governmental orders for how asbestos-containing equipment should be handled. The Court did not find any government direction preventing the defendants from providing warnings on their products against the hazards of asbestos. In fact, as was reported by a naval expert, the Navy not only authorized but depended heavily on manufacturers to include warning labels. Without warnings in equipment manuals, the Navy would be unaware of the health and safety risks associated with the products they used. As a result, Judge Battaglia ruled that the defendants could not use this defense to prevent the case from continuing to a jury.  If the court had not ruled in favor of Mr. Spurlin, other veterans who served our country would be barred from bringing legal action for their mesothelioma diagnosis.

At Frost Law Firm, PC, we do what it takes to make sure that our clients get justice. Every case we take is personal to us. We care about the stories, the families, the backgrounds, and the experiences of our clients. We know how profoundly their lives have been impacted by mesothelioma.

No one’s life is ever the same after receiving a mesothelioma diagnosis. That’s why we use our legal expertise to fight against the companies that put profits above people’s health and safety. Because of our experience advocating for veterans, construction workers, firefighters, shipyard workers, and many other hardworking individuals whose job duties exposed them to asbestos, we know the tactics companies use in an attempt to evade responsibility for the harm they caused. And we use this knowledge to protect our clients. If you or someone you know received a mesothelioma diagnosis after asbestos exposure, reach to a law firm with experience.

 

 

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