Bergman Win in Oregon – Changes Asbestos Case Law
MAJOR VICTORY FOR MESOTHELIOMA VICTIMS
Our Firm took on the case of Paul McKenzie, (McKenzie v. A.W. Chesterton), who served in the US Navy as machinist for more than 20 years and passed away in 2010 as a result of asbestos exposure during his years of service. Our work for Mr. McKenzie has changed case law in Oregon and will make it easier to hold companies accountable that exposed innocent workers to asbestos.
For decades, Paul McKenzie worked aboard ships that used Warren brand pumps. These pumps contained asbestos packing and gaskets and were insulated with asbestos. It was exposure to the asbestos in Warren pumps that contributed to Mr. McKenzie’s mesothelioma death in 2010. Even after Paul McKenzie lost his life, the Bergman team continued the fight that took six more years to complete.
The initial lawsuit against Warren Pumps was filed in Oregon and the defendant company won a summary judgment using the “bare metal defense.” Warren claimed they manufactured and sold only a bare metal pump and not the asbestos materials that were required to operate and maintain the pumps used aboard Navy ships. The Bergman Legal team didn’t accept the dismissal and appealed the judgment.
The Court of Appeals reversed the lower court’s summary judgment and found that Warren Pumps knew that the US Navy intended to use asbestos packing, gaskets and insulation with their products. The court also found that the defendant knew that workers like Paul McKenzie would be exposed to airborne asbestos while removing and replacing asbestos components in order to maintain the pumps.
Further, Warren Pumps did not provide any warnings about the dangers of asbestos or provide any safe handling procedures for their products or the asbestos materials required to maintain their pumps. The defendant AW Chesterton/Warren Pumps fought the appeals court reversal but the Oregon Supreme Court sided with Paul McKenzie.
The appeal rulings reversed the summary judgment and also clarified that Oregon courts would not accept the bare metal defense which had been considered and, in some nearby jurisdictions, fully adopted. No prior case in the state of Oregon addressed the specific questions of the McKenzie case. The Oregon Supreme Court denied review of the case which allowed the appeal court ruling to stand.
This cemented the decision that found the pumps Warren sold to the US Navy were a complete package including the asbestos components and shut down the “bare metal” argument that persuaded the lower court. With the final McKenzie ruling, the law of Oregon has changed and represents a major victory for families of asbestos victims.
Although this was a Navy case, it applies to any case that includes exposure to replacement asbestos parts or components such as cases against auto manufacturers with friction asbestos components and other similar cases. This decision allows advocates representing asbestos exposure victims to hold those companies responsible that knowingly exposing workers to asbestos.
Bergman Draper Oslund attorney Anna Knudson was instrumental in achieving this result through her briefing assistance along with appellate counsel Jim Coon in Portland. To find out more about pursuing a compensation case for mesothelioma from asbestos exposure, contact Bergman for a free case evaluation today.