On June 10, the US Supreme Court declined to accept the appeal of a case dealing with the duty of ship owners to intervene in protecting the safety of shipyard workers. The court’s decision means that a previous decision by the Virginia Supreme Court that vacated a $17.5 million verdict against ExxonMobil Corp. will stand.
The case began when plaintiff, a former commercial vessels repair supervisor at one of Exxon’s shipyards, filed suit against Exxon under the federal Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. In his suit, plaintiff alleged that Exxon, whose ships contained asbestos, was negligent in allowing him and other workers to be exposed to asbestos found on Exxon’s ships. Following a trial, the jury awarded the plaintiff $12 million in compensatory damages, $12.5 million in punitive damages, and medical expenses of $430,964.
Exxon appealed the trial decision to the Virginia Supreme Court. In its decision, the Virginia Supreme Court held that there was sufficient evidence to conclude that Exxon bore responsibility for the plaintiff’s asbestos exposure.
Shipbuilders have a high risk of developing cancer due to asbestos exposure. This risk is higher for those who worked in shipyards between World War II and the Korean War due to work areas being so poorly ventilated that asbestos dust would build up and expose shipbuilders to large quantities of asbestos.
Koonz’s Safety Tip: Employees who work in an environment where exposure to asbestos is a constant threat should always wear safety equipment, such as a mask with a HEPA filter.