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Product Liability – Source of Mechanic’s Fatal Asbestos Exposure Disputed
John Mulcahy died at the age of 77 from mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lung primarily associated with exposure to asbestos. He was survived by his wife and two daughters. His estate contended he was exposed to asbestos-containing products associated with valves manufactured by deft Crane Co. and turbines made by deft General Electric during his forty years of work as a mechanic at several Commonwealth Edison power plant facilities from 1954 to 1994.
The estate claimed Crane and GE were negligent in failing to warn of the asbestos-containing products later used with their equipment despite their knowledge of the hazards of asbestos during that time period. Defts denied negligence, denied liability, and denied their products caused Mulcahy’s mesothelioma and death.
The defense for Crane argued its products were valves and not asbestos, Crane had no duty to warn of asbestos-containing products made and supplied by other companies, and Mulcahy’S work with and around its equipment was a de minimus exposure which was not a substantial factor in causing his disease. The defense for Crane further asserted the sole proximate cause of Mulcahy’S disease was his heavy and early exposure to thermal insulation during his service in the United States Navy from 1948 to 1952. The defense for GE maintained GE had no duty to warn of the risk of exposure to asbestos-containing insulation that was made by another company and used to insulate turbines manufactured by GE, CornEd and the workers’ union were well aware of the potential hazards so no warning was required by GE, and even if a warning had been given it would not have changed any work conditions at the plant.