Bergman Draper & Frockt has an impressive track record of victories in the appellate courts in Washington. On August 31, 2010, the Court of Appeals of Washington, Division Two, ruled that Lockheed Shipbuilding Company in Seattle had a duty to protect workers at its shipyard from asbestos hazards, including employees of contractors working at Lockheed who were not Lockheed employees. The Court reversed the trial court’s prior ruling to the contrary, and reinstated the case for trial. (Arnold v. Saberhagen Holdings, Inc., et al., 157 Wn. App. 649, 2010 WL 3410720.)
After considering extensive evidence garnered through considerable investigation by Bergman, Draper & Frockt attorneys, the Court of Appeals held that a genuine trial issue existed as to whether Lockheed failed to ensure a safe workplace when Mr. Arnold worked for an insulation subcontractor and sustained significant asbestos exposure at the Lockheed Shipyard in Seattle in 1962 and 1963, and 1967-1969. As a result of this ruling, the Arnold family retains viable claims against Lockheed for the untimely deaths from mesothelioma of both Reuben and his son, Daniel, who as a child had been exposed to asbestos brought home on his father’s work clothes. Both Reuban and Daniel developed mesothelioma as a result of their asbestos exposure, and both passed away from this disease within 15 months of one another.
The opinion also establishes that Lockheed acted as a general contractor. Under Washington law, general contractors with supervisory and coordinating authority in common work areas are responsible for the job safety of all workers, including the employees of subcontractors like Mr. Arnold. In rejecting Lockheed’s claim that it did not act as a general contractor, the Court established important precedent for potential future victims of shipyard and industrial exposure to asbestos at large, industrial multi-employer jobsites in Washington. In addition to assisting the Arnold family, the opinion will assist other families whose loved ones are harmed or killed by asbestos at area shipyards and similarly-situated premises with high exposures.