Court: Spaniards Can Sue in N.J. for Overseas Asbestos Exposure

May 28, 2008

A group of Spanish workers injured by asbestos-containing insulation while working on Navy ships docked in Spain can sue the manufacturer of the insulation in New Jersey — where the products were produced — a panel of judges has ruled.

The ruling by a three-judge panel of the New Jersey Superior Court overturns an earlier decision and clears the way for a products liability case to proceed in the Garden State against Perrysburg, Ohio-based Owens-Illinois, which manufactured the insulation in factories Sayreville and Berlin, New Jersey.

The plaintiffs in the case are 15 Spanish citizens who claim they developed asbestos-related illnesses – specifically, asbestosis — while working on Naval warships in Rota and Cadiz, Spain, between 1950 and 1998.

Lawyers for Owens-Illinois had argued that the case should be heard in a Spanish court.

At issue is exposure to an asbestos-containing insulation manufactured by Owens-Illinois – under the name Kaylo – from 1943 to 1958 in the two factories in New Jersey. The company sold the Kaylo line of products to Owens-Corning Fiberglass Corp. in 1958 and has not made asbestos-containing products since.

In overturning the earlier ruling, the judges found that, wherever they are docked, Navy warships are considered U.S. territory and liability for the plaintiffs’ exposure should therefore be heard in a U.S. court, not a Spanish one.

The decision remands the case to Superior Court for trial.

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