Calif. appeals court overturns asbestos decision

John O'Brien Apr. 23, 2010, 12:20pm

LOS ANGELES (Legal Newsline) - A California appeals court has overturned a $5.6 million asbestos verdict, finding that valve-maker The William Powell Company is not liable for the injuries sustained by Edward Walton.

Powell sold metal valves, together with asbestos packing and gaskets, to the U.S. Navy in the 1940s. Walton served during three decades and was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2005, then filed a lawsuit against 46 defendants.

His lawsuit contributed none of the asbestos products he contacted to Powell.

"Powell contends that the Waltons‟ claims for strict liability and negligence fail because its valves were not defective and caused no injury to Edward Walton," says the decision, released Thursday.

"We agree... Powell supplied none of the asbestos products to which Edward Walton was exposed, and its valves had no defect rendering Powell liable for the injuries that Walton may have sustained through exposure to asbestos products from other sources."

The suit is similar to two currently before the state Supreme Court.

One lawsuit involves Patrick O'Neil, who was responsible for repairs and maintenance of equipment in the boiler rooms, engine rooms and machine room on an aircraft carrier and died in 2005.

Crane Co. made valves and Warren Pumps made pumps used on the ship. Both were covered with an asbestos insulation and contained asbestos packing on the inside. When the packing and insulation were replaced, it created asbestos dust.

The state Supreme Court is to decide the question: "Can the manufacturer of valves and fittings installed on Navy ships, and designed to be used with asbestos packing, gaskets, and insulation, rely on the 'component parts' defense or related theories to preclude strict liability for asbestosis injuries years later suffered by seamen on those ships?"

A decision by the state's Second District Court of Appeals sided with the plaintiffs, saying the defendants should have known their products would be insulated with asbestos to protect them from heat.

The Walton decision said Powell had no duty to warn any users that its valves would be used with asbestos-laden products, and that there is no evidence any of the Powell products caused exposure to Walton.

Walton was awarded $20 million in noneconomic damages, with Powell being considered responsible for 25 percent of it.

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