New York Supreme Court Permits Asbestos Exposure Lawsuit to Go to Trial

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The lawsuit is against cable manufacturer on behalf of New Jersey resident who died of mesothelioma from asbestos exposure at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

A New York Supreme Court Justice has ruled that the asbestos exposure lawsuit of a former Elizabeth, New Jersey resident will move to trial in New York City. Leonard Shafer died at the age of 73 from mesothelioma, a rare and incurable asbestos-related cancer. Mr. Shafer's wife Evelyn, now a Manhattan resident, is continuing the lawsuit which is based upon Mr. Shafer's exposure to asbestos at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in the 1950s. Mr. Shafer is represented by mesothelioma trial attorneys from the New York and New Jersey offices of Levy Phillips & Konigsberg, LLP in the case, 03/108297, filed in New York County.

In an opinion dated April 5, 2007, Judge Helen Freedman, who presides over the New York City Asbestos Litigation, denied a motion for summary judgment filed by a cable manufacturer, The Okonite Company. Mr. Shafer was exposed to asbestos-containing Okonite cable while working as an electrician at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Evidence submitted by Shafer's 03/108297 [mesothelioma trial attorneys] to the Court proves that, as early as January 10, 1941, Okonite was approved to sell asbestos-containing armored cable to the Navy. At the time of the approvals in 1941, cable manufacturers were required, under Navy Specifications, to include asbestos in heat and flame resistant, armored cable. However, military records establish that, in September 1941, cable manufacturers were given a choice whether to use asbestos or glass fiber.

Despite the asbestos hazards to health, Okonite continued to sell to the Navy asbestos-containing armored cable. Documentary evidence submitted by the mesothelioma trial attorneys suggested that Okonite continued to sell asbestos containing cable and continued to use asbestos material in conjunction with their shipboard cable, at least up through 1956 when Mr. Shafer left the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Indeed, Plaintiff attorneys submitted overwhelming evidence of Okonite's continued use of asbestos in their product, notwithstanding the option of using a glass fiber. Further documentary evidence of Okonite's continued use of asbestos appears in Okonite's own company documents. Okonite did not produce any evidence that they implemented the use of glass as opposed to asbestos. To the contrary, the evidence Plaintiff submitted, including Mr. Shafer's deposition testimony, as well as archived Naval records and testimony from Okonite former employees, reflects that Okonite continued to use asbestos in its cable through the time period in which Mr. Shafer served in the Navy.

As an additional ground for denying Okonite's summary judgment motion, Judge Freedman noted that the Okonite cables were packed in asbestos containing packing material, which caused additional exposure to Mr. Shafer. The Shafer asbestos exposure lawsuit is scheduled for trial in June 2007 against defendants Okonite and John Crane, the manufacturer of the asbestos packing material used with the cable. In a similar asbestos exposure lawsuit in 2002, a New York County jury returned a $13.5 million dollar verdict in favor of plaintiff John Matteson who was exposed to Okonite Navy cable in the WWII era on ships at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Importantly, the Shafer case paves the way for litigants to proceed against Okonite for asbestos exposures into the 1950's.

Carmen St. George, a mesothelioma trial attorney in the New York and New Jersey offices of Levy Phillips & Konisberg, said that, "Mr. Shafer's death from mesothelioma could have been avoided if these companies would have acted responsibly and warned about the health hazards of asbestos. Justice Freedman's ruling properly places the factual issues surrounding Mr. Shafer's asbestos exposure where it belongs -- in the hands of the jury." To learn more about mesothelioma and the asbestos hazards to health, visit, the Source for Asbestos and Mesothelioma Information in New York and New Jersey.

To learn more about the mesothelioma trial attorneys from Levy, Phillips & Konigsberg, LLP , visit Levy, Phillips and Konigsberg, LLP is nationally recognized for handling all phases of state and federal complex legal matters, from initial investigation through litigation, trial and appeals. The firm represents individuals and employees with mesothelioma, mass-tort, toxic tort, product liability, personal injury, whistleblower, qui tam, and fraud claims. With offices in midtown Manhattan, Goshen, New York, and suburban Princeton, New Jersey, the firm's attorney's consistently have won landmark decisions enhancing the rights of individual workers and consumers injured by exposure to toxic substances, defective products and negligent behavior, with jury trial damage awards among the highest in the nation. Recent verdicts involving asbestos exposure lawsuits include: a 2004 verdict in which a New York jury awarded $22 million to two mestothelioma victims; a 2005 verdict in which a New Jersey jury awarded $10 million to a mesothelioma victim.

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Jay Berkowitz
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