Asbestos Gaskets and Steam Packing

San Francisco Jury Awards Over $5 Million in Asbestos Lung Cancer Case

San Francisco, CA — August 1, 2003 — A jury awarded over $5 million to a retired United States Navy machinist and engineering officer suffering from terminal lung cancer caused by his occupational exposure to asbestos. The defendants were John Crane Incorporated, an asbestos steam packing and gasket manufacturer, and Leslie Controls Incorporated, a manufacturer of asbestos-containing marine valves. The plaintiffs were Edward Jones and his wife Elleree Jones of Santa Cruz, California.

Edward Jones was first exposed to asbestos while working at a steel mill in Colorado when he was 16 years old. He was involved in the cleanup of insulation debris during piping and furnace repairs. He joined the United States Navy in 1950, serving as an apprentice machinist and machinist mate on the USS Juneau during the Korean War and aboard various other vessels until the early 1960s. Mr. Jones maintained and repaired equipment, including valves, pumps, turbines, and auxiliary equipment during these early years of his Navy career. He was routinely exposed to insulation, packing, and gaskets containing asbestos.

Despite only having an eighth-grade education, Mr. Jones rose through the ranks of the United States Navy, receiving specialized training in deep-sea diving and eventually in the operation of nuclear-powered submarines. After he stopped performing hands-on repairs and maintenance, Mr. Jones continued to be exposed to asbestos in the 1960s and 1970s when he supervised other Navy machinists and engineering department personnel aboard submarine tenders and nuclear submarines.

Mr. Jones testified that John Crane Incorporated asbestos steam packing was used throughout his career, saying it was “synonymous with packing.” He also had repaired valves manufactured by Leslie Controls Incorporated and was a bystander to repair activities on the same valves when he later became a supervisor.

In 1978, Mr. Jones retired from the Navy as an officer in the shipbuilding division and received an honorable discharge. He then worked with Lockheed Shipbuilding in Washington state until 1985 supervising the construction of Navy submarine tenders. During this period, he was intermittently exposed to asbestos from the use of asbestos packing and gaskets.

Mr. Jones was diagnosed with primary lung cancer in December of 2000 and underwent lung lobe resection and chemotherapy. Sadly, Mr. Jones’ cancer has spread to his liver, and doctors believe that he will die within a year.

At trial, Mr. Jones described the course of his medical treatment and the effect it has had on his life. His wife, Elleree Jones, also testified regarding her husband’s struggle with cancer and how it had impacted their marriage. The defendants unsuccessfully claimed that Mr. Jones’ lung cancer was caused solely by his prior cigarette smoking, which occurred from 1949–1970.

History of Asbestos in John Crane and Leslie Control Products

John Crane Incorporated (formerly known as John Crane Packing Company) engaged in the manufacture and sale of a wide variety of asbestos steam packing from at least 1930. In 1985 it discontinued the use of asbestos in its products. The company never tested its products for asbestos fiber release until it became involved in asbestos personal injury litigation in the early 1980s.

At trial, John Crane claimed that it was exempt from labeling requirements. However, the company nonetheless placed warnings on its products regarding the hazards of asbestos in 1983, coinciding with its first involvement as a defendant in asbestos litigation. Before that time, the company did not warn its customers about asbestos health hazards. John Crane Incorporated has never recalled a single product containing asbestos. It did not call any corporate witnesses at trial.

Leslie Control Incorporated has been a major supplier of asbestos-containing marine valves to the United States Navy since World War I. The valves for steam applications contained asbestos packing and gaskets since at least the 1930s. The packing was manufactured by John Crane Incorporated.

Leslie Controls Incorporated never placed warnings regarding asbestos on its valves or in its technical manuals and has never recalled any of its products. At trial, Leslie Controls Incorporated presented a corporate witness that claimed the company did not have knowledge of asbestos as a health hazard until the 1980s.

The plaintiff presented evidence about both defendants’ longstanding involvement in manufacturing asbestos-containing products. Mr. Jones testified for over three days regarding his occupational exposure circumstances.

Defendant John Crane Incorporated was represented at trial by Philip Ward, Robert Nelder, and John Katerndahl of Hassard Bonnington LLC of San Francisco, California. Defendant Leslie Controls Incorporated was represented at trial by Kenneth McCarthy of Knox Ricksen LLC of Oakland, California.