Bergman Oslund Udo Little attorneys secure appellate win allowing asbestos claims against contractors to proceed in Washington state for 1970s exposure

Court’s decision overturns summary judgement dismissal of David J. Welch and Linda Welch v. Brand Insulations, Inc. and Haskell Corporation.

SEATTLE – JULY 5, 2023 – Bergman Oslund Udo Little (BOUL), a leading legal firm specializing in asbestos injury cases, obtained a favorable appellate decision in a case that involves the statute of repose that limits claims against contractors, including those that applied asbestos insulation. The published opinion from The Court of Appeals of the State of Washington (Division I) creates a division split that allows mesothelioma claims against contractors to proceed in Washington more than 10 years after the exposure to asbestos

The decision rejected the 2020 analysis adopted by The Court of Appeals of the State of Washington (Division II), which had found asbestos injury claims arising from the same contractors at the same Bellingham refinery were untimely due to Washington’s statute of repose. BOUL attorney Justin Olson briefed and argued that the case, urging the Division I Court of Appeals to reject Division II’s flawed analysis (Maxwell v. Atlantic Richfield, Co.) and apply Washington’s statute of repose test as set by the Washington Supreme Court (Condit v. Lewis Refrigeration Co.). The Division I court agreed.

Division I determined that neither defendant presented competent evidence to show that it contributed to the construction of either (1) a structural improvement in the refinery or (2) a system that is integrally a normal part of a refinery and required for the refinery to function as intended as determined by Condit. The record did not contain any evidence that the work performed by two defendant contractors met either of these tests. 

Accordingly, because the defendants failed to satisfy their initial burdens on summary judgment, Division I reversed the trial court’s summary dismissal of the plaintiffs’ claims and remanded for further proceedings.

“We are pleased the court came to the conclusion it did and applied precedent to this case as set forth by the Supreme Court of Washington,” said Vanessa Firnhaber Oslund, a partner at the firm who also represents the Welch family. “This decision highlights the complex issues facing mesothelioma victims in Washington and the importance of hiring a law firm well-versed in Washington law.”

In June 2021, David and Linda Welch filed a lawsuit against multiple defendants, including Brand Insulations Inc. and Haskell Corporation, seeking damages for David ‘s asbestos exposure from the 1960s to the 1990s. The claims against Brand Insulations and Haskell Corporation were specifically based on Welch’s work at the ARCO Cherry Point petroleum refinery near Bellingham, Washington—the same refinery at issue in the flawed Maxwell case. The Welches contended that David was exposed to asbestos-containing pipe insulation during turnaround projects at the refinery.

David Welch testified that he worked on approximately two turnarounds per year, each lasting about a month, during the 1980s. He worked in various areas of the refinery, including the “fin-fans,” “coker section,” “hydrocracker,” “sulfur unit,” and “smelter,” all known sources to asbestos exposure. According to Welch, Haskell Corp. personnel frequently worked at the Cherry Point refinery, and he often worked in proximity to them. He noted that Haskell Corp. workers were involved in pipe work, including the fabrication and insulation removal of disturbance.

Based on the Division I court’s reversal, the Welches will be able to pursue their claims against Brand Insulations Inc. and Haskell Corporation in Superior Court.

About Bergman Oslund Udo Little

The Seattle-based law firm of Bergman Oslund Udo Little (BOUL) has fought for justice for people harmed from exposure to asbestos for more than 25 years. Largely serving clients who live or have worked in Washington and Oregon, BOUL is active in courts throughout this region, recovering millions of dollars for its clients.  Recently, BOUL secured jury verdicts of $11.2 million for a laborer in Tacoma, Washington; $10 million for “take home” shipyard exposure in Seattle, Washington; and $30 million in Portland for the family of an Oregon mesothelioma victim exposed to asbestos as a laborer at a pipe factory. 

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