North Carolina Asbestos Suit vs. Ford, Other Parts Makers Moves Ahead

North Carolina Asbestos Suit vs. Ford, Other Parts Makers Moves Ahead

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A federal lawsuit against Ford Motor Co. and other manufacturers of auto parts that contained asbestos is proceeding, after a judge in North Carolina rejected arguments that a mechanic should have known of the dangers of asbestos.

Mesothelioma.net, an advocacy group for victims of asbestos-related diseases, has hailed the judge’s decision.

“Despite the aggressive defense that the manufacturers mounted against the mesothelioma claim, the judge hearing their motions for summary judgment refused the majority of their arguments and allowed the widow’s case to move forward for a jury to hear,” the group wrote Thursday.

In Laura Walls vs. Ford, et al, the widow of Robie Walls is suing Ford and other companies that manufactured asbestos-containing brake pads and other parts that Robie Walls worked with for decades. The mechanic died in October 2020, one year after he was diagnosed with mesothelioma.

The case has been closely watched because it highlights auto repair – another class of workers that continue to be exposed to asbestos. Ford and the other parts makers argued that Walls’ employers are the ones responsible, that the suit was barred by the exclusive remedy provided by workers’ compensation laws, and that the man should have known what he was working with and should not have sanded the brakes.

But U.S. District Judge Loretta Biggs rejected those arguments and allowed the multimillion-dollar case to proceed. Her ruling came seven months after the Washington State Supreme Court upheld an $81.5 million verdict against an auto parts company and distributor. In March of this year, a St. Louis jury ordered Ford to pay $20 million in a suit brought by a mechanic.

After Biggs’ order in the Walls case, Ford this week asked the judge to reconsider, arguing that she had made errors of fact and of law in letting the suit proceed. The plaintiff did not produce reliable expert testimony that his exposure led to his lung disease, the defendants said.

More hearings on experts’ qualifications will be held next week.

A number of trust funds help cover claims against asbestos companies that have declared bankruptcy, but other corporations face multiple lawsuits.

Topics
Lawsuits
North Carolina

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