Shipyard workers are disproportionately afflicted with mesothelioma, asbestos, and lung cancer due to the wide utilization of asbestos in nearly all aspects of shipbuilding. Both U.S. veterans from Navy shipyards and civilians employed by private commercial facilities may have been exposed to asbestos via elements produced with asbestos products, including insulation, gasket pumps, and pipes.
How Are Shipyard Workers Exposed to Asbestos?
Thanks to its capacity to withstand heat and obstruct the onset of fires, asbestos was previously considered a vital key element of shipbuilding, particularly in naval vessels that could not afford the risk of a blaze at sea. Asbestos is now a known occupational hazard of working in a shipyard, and countless former employees of these facilities along the coasts of the United States have developed mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. Many have been able to directly link their exposure to these shipyards, particularly in California and New York.
Anyone involved in the loading or offloading of vessel cargo in a shipyard was likely at risk of asbestos exposure. Materials and parts containing asbestos were constantly being moved on and off vessels in shipyards, and asbestos fibers would frequently be transferred to the crates, pallets, and packing materials used to transport the cargo.
Shipyard workers responsible for building, maintaining, repairing, overhauling, or decommissioning vessels had an extremely high risk of asbestos exposure. This occupational hazard was present in work performed on many types of military and non-military vessels, including cruisers, submarines, aircraft carriers, battleships, and destroyers. Boiler workers and pipefitters were at a particularly elevated risk due to their role in maintaining and repairing asbestos insulation.
If you worked in a shipyard between World War II and the Vietnam War, you were almost certainly exposed to asbestos in some capacity. Specifically, the Charleston Naval Shipyard, Todd Shipyards, Kaiser Shipbuilding Company, and Bremerton Puget Sound Navy Company are all notorious for confirmed cases of occupational asbestos exposure. Keep in mind that it can take as many as 50 years for the first signs of an asbestos-related disease to become apparent.
Asbestos Products a Shipyard Worker May Have Encountered
The United States Navy permitted over 300 products containing asbestos to be used in shipbuilding until the 1970s. The hazardous substance was ubiquitous and used in just about every part of the process, meaning everyone who had a hand in shipbuilding was at risk. It was especially common in bedrooms, engine rooms, and boiler rooms.
Some of the asbestos-containing products a shipyard worker may have encountered include:
- Hydraulic assemblies
- Gaskets and valves
- Paint and coatings
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The manufacturers of asbestos-containing products used in many shipyards have historically attempted to escape accountability by claiming the U.S. Navy was responsible for exposure because of its authorization that the hazardous substances could be used. Regardless of the government’s role, it is important to understand that you cannot sue the Navy for asbestos exposure. This means asbestos manufacturers are liable for the lasting harm their products have caused, as they knew the risks but chose to put profits over people.
Some of the most prominent asbestos manufacturers that have faced legal action for shipyard asbestos exposure include:
- Bendix Corp.
- Burnham Holdings
- Foster Wheeler
- GAF Corporation (formerly known as the Ruberoid Company)
- Johns Manville
- Keasbey & Mattison
- Pryor Giggey & Co.
If you are a shipyard worker who developed mesothelioma or another disease as a result of asbestos exposure in a civilian shipyard, you can also take legal action against the shipyard owner and operator. Many asbestos exposure victims have successfully brought lawsuits against these entities.
Some examples of civilian shipyard owners and operators who have been involved in asbestos litigation include:
- Caddell Dry Dock
- Consolidated Steel
- General Dynamics NASSCO
- GMD Shipyard
- Moore Dry Dock Company
- New York Shipbuilding Corporation
- Rough & Ready Island Ship Repair
- San Francisco Drydock
- Southwest Marine
How Asbestos Exposure Can Cause Mesothelioma in Shipyard Workers
Shipyard workers can develop mesothelioma after breathing in asbestos fibers or having direct contact with the material over a prolonged period of time. Asbestos fibers can also cling to clothes, meaning shipyard workers may have unknowingly introduced them into their homes and exposed their family members.
When inhaled or ingested, tiny particles from asbestos products can become embedded in the lining of the lungs and other organs, leading to inflammation and cell damage over time. This damage can eventually lead to mesothelioma and other serious conditions. Symptoms of mesothelioma may include shortness of breath, chest pain, coughing up blood, fatigue, weight loss, fever, and night sweats. The prognosis for those diagnosed with this condition will vary depending on how soon it was identified and other factors. Unfortunately, there is no cure, and treatment options are typically limited since most cases are advanced when discovered.
The Federal Tort Claims Act prevents you from suing the Navy for asbestos exposure. However, other avenues of obtaining legal compensation are available, as manufacturers of asbestos-containing products and civilian shipyard owners and operators can be held liable for diseases stemming from asbestos exposure. You may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against the responsible party. If a loved one diagnosed with mesothelioma recently passed away, you may also be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit. In some instances, you can also potentially get compensation through an asbestos bankruptcy trust.
At SWMW Law, we devote ourselves to representing victims of asbestos exposure, and we specifically understand how to successfully advocate for shipyard workers and their families. Whether you are a Navy Veteran or a private shipyard worker, our compassionate attorneys are ready to fight on your behalf – because accountability matters, and your story matters to us. We will put our unique combination of skills and experience to work for you with the goal of getting you maximum compensation without delay. With over $750 million already recovered for our clients, you can rest assured your case will be in good hands.
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