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Supreme Court Sides with Navy Veterans in Maritime Product Liability Case

On Tuesday, March 19, the United States Supreme Court held that a Navy contractor was liable for the damages that veterans sustained due to the exposure of materials that contained the carcinogen, Asbestos.

The two plaintiffs in the case, Kenneth McAfee and John DeVries, alleged that the manufacturer failed to warn the servicemembers of the dangers associated with the asbestos insulation that was added by a third party to pumps, turbines, and blowers on the ship. Tragically, both plaintiffs passed away from cancer during the litigation of this case.

Servicemembers Seeking Compensation for Injuries at Sea

This case marks a significant victory for veterans of the Navy, as injuries at sea are outside of the territory of any State and, therefore, fall under maritime law and the Supreme Court. As a result, this win might allow more veterans to seek damages for injuries at sea caused by Navy contractors.

Before landing on the docket of the highest court, a Philadelphia court granted summary judgment to the defendants of this maritime case, finding them not liable for the resulting injuries of the two veterans. In 2017, however, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit remanded the lower court’s decision, sending it the Supreme Court.

Here, in a 6-3 decision, Justice Brett Kavanaugh lead the opinion, wrote, “this maritime tort raises a question about the scope of a manufacturer’s duty to warn[…] if the manufacturers had provided warnings, the workers on the ships presumably could have worn respirator masks and thereby avoided the danger.”

This case illuminates a dangerous trend of illegal behaviors by manufacturers who fail to warn consumers of the risks associated with their products. When a citizen is injured due to a manufacturer’s failure to warn, the injured party will often have a product liability claim against the manufacturer. This recent maritime case expands this cause of action to Navy personnel injured by contractors at sea.

Seeking Legal Counsel for Navy and Maritime Injuries

The Whitley Law Firm is a leading personal injury firm that frequently represents veteran clients on a diverse set of product liability claims. If you’ve fallen victim to the practices of a negligent manufacturer, contact our team of skilled and experienced lawyers today to discuss what legal options may be available to you.