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Asbestos at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard

Bremerton Puget Sound Naval Shipyard has been the site of numerous mesothelioma lawsuits, with plaintiffs seeking compensation for asbestos-related injuries caused by their exposure at the shipyard. Bergman Oslund Udo Little, a law firm specializing in mesothelioma cases, has achieved significant results in representing these individuals. 

Notable Case Results

$8.3 Million Awarded to a Man Diagnosed with Mesothelioma at the Age of 79: This individual, who served as an electrician in the United States Navy and worked at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington, was exposed to asbestos during his career. The court recognized the connection between his asbestos exposure and the development of mesothelioma, leading to the substantial compensation.

$5.6 Million Awarded to a Man Diagnosed with Mesothelioma at the Age of 58: The plaintiff worked as a painter’s helper onboard the USS Ranger at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard from 1975 to 1976. His exposure to asbestos during his time at the shipyard resulted in the development of mesothelioma. The court acknowledged the shipyard’s liability and awarded significant compensation.

$5 Million Awarded to a Man Diagnosed with Mesothelioma at the Age of 77: This individual experienced asbestos exposure while working onboard ships at Hunter’s Point Naval Shipyard in San Francisco, California, as well as at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington. The court recognized the connection between his asbestos exposure at both shipyards and the development of mesothelioma, leading to a substantial monetary award.

$3 Million Awarded to a Man Diagnosed with Mesothelioma at the Age of 75: The plaintiff worked as a pipefitter at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington. His work involved significant asbestos exposure, which led to the development of mesothelioma. The court ruled in favor of the plaintiff, recognizing the shipyard’s responsibility for his illness and granting substantial compensation.

$2.8 Million Awarded to a Man Diagnosed with Mesothelioma at the Age of 63: This individual, while serving in the U.S. Navy from 1976 to 1977 and working at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, was exposed to asbestos-containing gaskets, packing, and insulation as a boiler operator. The court acknowledged the connection between his asbestos exposure and the development of mesothelioma, resulting in a significant financial settlement.

$1.4 Million Awarded to a Man Diagnosed with Mesothelioma at the Age of 72: The plaintiff worked as an insulator onboard various ships at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and other shipyards between 1945 and 1967. His extensive exposure to asbestos during his career led to the development of mesothelioma. The court recognized the shipyard’s liability and awarded substantial compensation to the plaintiff.

These case results, including a win at the Washington Supreme Court, illustrate the successful efforts of Bergman Oslund Udo Little in advocating for mesothelioma victims who were exposed to asbestos at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. The outcomes highlight the responsibility of asbestos product manufacturers and the equipment designed to incorporate them; the harm caused by asbestos exposure resulting in significant financial compensation to those affected. 


History of the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Asbestos

Located across Sinclair Inlet from Seattle, the Bremerton Puget Sound Naval Shipyard has a complex history dating back over a century. Originally established in 1891 as the Puget Sound Navy Yard, the location was selected for its defensive advantages after a 13-year search for a Northwest naval maintenance yard. Over time, the shipyard at Point Turner grew from a modest 190-acre footprint to an impressive two square miles, and it now encompasses more than 1,300 acres.

Unfortunately, the wartime years – when much of our community was employed at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard – are also years when asbestos use was at its height in shipbuilding. Because of its insulating properties, asbestos was used in almost every shipboard system for much of the 20th century. Components like adhesives, insulation, boilers, flooring, piping, pumps, gaskets, packing and valves may all contain this hazardous material.

The scale and longevity of the shipyard have also exposed many of its employees to asbestos. Certain employees, such as insulators and boiler workers, were especially susceptible to moderate to high exposure levels. This form of exposure increases the likelihood of developing asbestos-related diseases. “If you were aboard a Navy ship any time any work was done on machinery, you were exposed,” attorney Matthew P. Bergman said, “Washington has the second highest number of mesothelioma victims because of the large number of shipyards here.”

In 2021, the International Journal of Environmental Health Research published a literature review examining the incidence of asbestos-related cancer among mariners. A 2020 study involving seafarers from five Nordic countries revealed that their risk of developing mesothelioma is more than double that of the general population.

Asbestos-Related Illnesses

The risk of mesothelioma among shipyard employees was the subject of a 2017 study published in the Archives of Environmental & Occupational Health. The study found that moderate asbestos exposure increased the risk of mesothelioma mortality by approximately fourfold.

The Bremerton Naval Shipyard has been the subject of numerous asbestos-related investigations due to its scale and scope. With over 12,000 employees, including a large number of civilian defense personnel, shipyard contractors and subcontractors are frequently sued. Typically, the defendants in these disputes are the manufacturers of asbestos-containing materials used on the shipyard. It is common for contractors to vehemently deny liability for asbestos-related issues.

The shipyard’s hazards have been brought to light by the litigation surrounding asbestos-related illnesses. Gary D. Allen’s son filed a complaint against Uniroyal (formerly United States Rubber) for the company’s use of asbestos in shipboard insulation. Allen had worked as a civilian at the Bremerton Naval Yard for 25 years prior to contracting asbestos-related lung cancer and passing away. Uniroyal denied any evidence of asbestos contamination, but an appeals court reversed the summary judgment, recognizing circumstantial evidence of the potential peril of asbestos exposure.

Vernon Braaten, a pipe fitter who spent his entire career at the Bremerton Naval Yards working with asbestos-coated pipes, was embroiled in a similar case. Braaten filed a lawsuit against the manufacturers of the asbestos-containing piping and asbestos-containing products used in conjunction with it, claiming that they had a duty to warn employees about the known risks of asbestos exposure.

Ken Hagerman died in 2020 from mesothelioma due to secondary asbestos exposure, which occurs when someone you live with works around or with asbestos. As a child in the 1950s, his father would return home from work at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard with asbestos fibers or dust on his clothing. Hagerman’s wife, Delores, is one of potentially thousands who will benefit from a multi-million dollar asbestos illness trust fund created for victims of exposure during that time period.

Asbestos-related injury claims at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard have emerged within the Longshoreman and Harbor Workers compensation system. In addition, between 2002 and 2009, the Bremerton Naval Shipyard received 17 complaints or investigations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of the U.S. Department of Labor regarding hazardous working conditions. Infractions included inadequate protection of exposed areas and improper wiring practices.

"Shop 56," the asbestos insulation shop for Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.

Throughout its history, the Bremerton Naval Yard has faced numerous changes and obstacles, including wars and periods of reduction. Under the management of the United States Navy, it is now the busiest shipyard on the West Coast. Notably, the yard received official Superfund designation from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1993, recognizing it as the seventeenth most toxic site on the EPA’s list of National Priorities. Although efforts have been made to clear up the site, it continues to serve as a stark reminder of the environmental and health risks associated with its operations.

The Bremerton Naval Yard’s work with nuclear materials on the U.S. nuclear submarine fleet has prompted worker and family concerns and complaints. State agencies in Washington have imposed hefty penalties for intentional and frequently negligent pollution offenses. Prior to the late 1960s, asbestos was utilized extensively in the construction of naval vessels. As a result, a significant number of shipyard employees have developed fatal diseases such as mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis.

In the middle of the 1940s, shipyard owners were made aware of the potential health dangers posed by asbestos. A spokesperson for the Bremerton Naval Yard argued, however, that at the time of disposal, little was known about the hazardous nature of these materials.

Due to the presence of toxic substances on-site, the EPA’s Superfund process for the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard entailed extensive data collection and monitoring. For asbestos management violations, the Puget Sound Air Pollution Control Agency also fined the shipyard $300,000. As of June 23, 2009, the shipyard’s incorporation in the EPA‘s Superfund program highlights its complex history and ongoing efforts to address environmental concerns.

While nothing can undo the harm that asbestos exposure has on shipyard workers and their families, it is possible for those people to seek justice. People exposed to asbestos in shipyards and other job sites should seek experienced legal guidance as they explore their options and pursue compensation. Contact our team to speak with an asbestos exposure expert attorney today.

Case Story: Paul Ondell

Years ago, if you had told Shawn Ondell that she would become a crusader for the rights of mesothelioma victims, she wouldn’t have believed it. But that would have been before her husband Paul died of mesothelioma at age 57.

Paul, a decorated Vietnam vet, worked at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard after returning home. As a pipefitter, Paul worked with a variety of asbestos-containing products, including gaskets, packing, pumps, valves, pipe covering, pipe muds, and cloth. The job paid well; well enough that Paul was able to retire in his mid-50s, looking forward to spending many years of leisure with his wife and enjoying the life they’d built together.

But just one month after his retirement, Paul was diagnosed of pleural mesothelioma. He died shortly after.

Our attorneys represented Paul and Shawn Ondell in their case and recovered significant settlements from the companies responsible for his cancer. But Shawn, who had also worked at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, wasn’t only interested in justice for Paul – she wanted to make things better for other victims of mesothelioma.

After losing her husband and the time they had wanted together, Shawn became an advocate. She petitioned the Washington State Legislature to enact laws that would protect mesothelioma victims. Although Shawn’s fight is not over, it’s a battle she’ll continue for Paul and all other mesothelioma victims and their families.

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Representing asbestos and mesothelioma clients throughout the Northwest.

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Portland, OR 97204

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