In a case that could have profound implications for many people suffering from asbestos-related illnesses, the Washington Court of Appeals recently reversed and remanded a case involving the safety of masks that were meant to protect people working with asbestos. The court of appeals opinion, which was published, reopens the door for a client who developed asbestos-related mesothelioma after using 3M masks.
Puget Sound Naval Shipyard worker
The original case involved a Gig Harbor man who worked for many years as an insulator at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. In the course of his job duties, he frequently worked with asbestos, and relied on a type 8710 mask manufactured by 3M to protect him from breathing in dangerous asbestos fibers. The manufacturer promoted 8710 masks as effective in protecting wearers from asbestos fibers, and the man wore 8710 masks regularly while working with insulation material between 1972 and 1980.
Decades later, in 2019, the man was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a fatal cancer of the lung linings. Mesothelioma is caused by the inhalation of asbestos fibers.
The man and his wife filed suit against 3M, claiming that it was negligent in marketing the 8710 mask as safe for use with asbestos. The case went to trial in 2020.
At trial, the plaintiffs presented evidence that the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health warned 3M that single-use dust masks like the 8710 had a tendency to leak and should therefore not be used with asbestos, but that 3M continued to market the 8710 for that purpose for several years afterward.
The jury ultimately found that 3M was negligent in marketing the 8710 for use with asbestos, but did not find that the negligent marketing was the legal cause of the man’s illness, and denied him compensation from 3M.
The man and his wife appealed the decision to the Washington Court of Appeals, Division 1. In the appeal, attorneys from Bergman Oslund Udo Little argued that the jury’s decision was based on erroneous jury instructions which led to an overly strict application of the rules for holding marketers liable for dangerously defective products.
The Court of Appeals agreed, holding that the instructions were not appropriate for a multi-exposure asbestos case. The case will now be sent back to the lower courts for another trial.
The case showcases how difficult it can sometimes be for people to get justice after they have been harmed by asbestos. Committed lawyers help victims and their families fight for their rights.