Mass. appeals court sides with turbine, valve manufacturers

Jessica M. Karmasek Feb. 14, 2013, 8:03pm

BOSTON, Mass. (Legal Newsline) -- The Massachusetts Appeals Court has ruled in favor of two companies that manufactured turbines and valves that were alleged to have caused one man's mesothelioma.

The products at issue are turbines manufactured by Westinghouse, a predecessor of CBS Corp., and valves manufactured by Crane Co., or predecessor Chapman.

Both products were installed in rooms with pumps, valves and pipes that used gaskets, packing and insulation containing asbestos.

Plaintiff Ellen Whiting claimed that her husband suffered from malignant mesothelioma as a result of his exposure to the asbestos and the defendants' products during his service in the engine and boiler rooms aboard the U.S.S. Guadalcanal.

According to court documents, Westinghouse supplied its turbines uninsulated. Any insulation was attached by the U.S. Navy or its shipbuilder according to military specifications when the ship was built in 1961.

In its decision Thursday, the appeals court said there is no "direct evidence" that Crane's valves were supplied with asbestos gaskets and packing, and although the company sold products containing asbestos, such as gaskets, Crane never manufactured any materials or products containing asbestos.

Also, there was evidence that there were valves of as many as seven different manufacturers in the engine and boiler rooms, the court said.

The only evidence of Whiting's exposure to asbestos, the court noted, came from a shipmate, who stated in a deposition that he could not recall Whiting working on the turbines, but he opined that Whiting would have removed and replaced asbestos gaskets and packing in Crane and Chapman valves and other equipment.

"Accordingly, there is no evidence that Whiting's mesothelioma was caused by asbestos products manufactured by the defendants," the appeals court wrote.

To prove causation in an asbestos case, the court explained, it is the plaintiff's principal burden to "show that a defendant's product contained asbestos and that the victim was exposed to the asbestos in the defendant's product."

The court, in coming to its decision, upheld a superior court's summary judgment in favor of CBS and Crane.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at

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