Court: Shipyard Worker’s Cancer Lawsuit Proceeds

August 13, 2012

Washington’s Supreme Court says a lawsuit brought against respirator makers by a now-deceased shipyard worker can go forward.

Leo Macias worked at Todd Shipyards, where he was assigned to clean respirators worn by other workers when they dealt with asbestos and other dangerous materials. Macias developed cancer from handling the respirators, and he sued, saying the manufacturers never issued warnings that cleaning the respirators could be dangerous.

The state Court of Appeals threw out his lawsuit. It reasoned that it was the asbestos – not the respirators – that caused his cancer, and so he couldn’t sue the respirator makers, Saberhagen Holdings, Inc.

The Supreme Court reversed that in a 5-4 decision Thursday. Chief Justice Barbara Madsen wrote that when used as intended, the respirators posed a danger to anyone who cleaned them, and thus, Macias should have been warned.

The court sent sent the case back to Pierce County Superior Court.

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