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Appeals court overturns product liability ruling


SEATTLE--A manufacturer had a duty to warn a plaintiff of potential asbestos exposure even though the manufacturer's water evaporator used on Navy ships did not contain asbestos, a Washington appeals court has ruled.

Monday's ruling in Joseph A. Simonetta vs. Viad Corp. stems from a product liability law suit brought by Mr. Simonetta, who was diagnosed with lung cancer and asbestos-related disease in 2000.

Mr. Simonetta worked as a Navy machinist mate during the late 1950s, court records show. After he sued, a trial court granted the manufacturer summary judgment, finding that it did not have a duty to warn because the asbestos exposure did not stem from the evaporator itself, nor did its evaporator cause the harm.

But the Washington Court of Appeals, Division 1 overturned that verdict. It found instead that Viad knew that asbestos was necessarily used to insulate its product and posed a health risk to anyone servicing the evaporator.

In a somewhat similar ruling Monday in Vernon Braaten vs. Buffalo Pumps Inc. et al., the same appeals court also held that four other manufacturers had a duty to warn a naval shipyard pipe fitter whose job required removing asbestos parts or insulation regularly used around the pipes and machinery they manufactured.

That decision also overturned a trial court's summary judgment that the manufacturers did not have a duty to warn. The appeals court remanded both cases for further proceedings.