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Washington court upholds duty to warn of asbestos


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

Last week's ruling in Joseph A. Simonetta vs. Viad Corp. stems from a product liability lawsuit 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 had no duty to warn because the asbestos exposure did not stem from the evaporator, nor did its evaporator cause the harm.

But the Washington Court of Appeals, Division 1 found that Viad knew asbestos was used to insulate the evaporator and posed a health risk to anyone servicing it.

In a similar ruling in Vernon Braaten vs. Buffalo Pumps Inc. et al., the same appeals court held that four other manufacturers had a duty to warn a naval shipyard worker about asbestos parts or insulation around pipes and machinery they made.

Both cases were remanded for further proceedings.