Exposure to asbestos-containing products is associated with serious illnesses such as mesothelioma and asbestosis, particularly in people who have had occupational exposure. In a November 20, 2017 wrongful death action before the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland, the issue was whether the plaintiffs had produced sufficient evidence to create a question of fact for a jury to decide. After the trial court had granted a summary judgment motion in favor of the defendants, the plaintiffs appealed.
The decedent in the case had worked at a shipyard for many years as a machinist and mechanic. His duties frequently involved removing and replacing insulation, which often contained asbestos, on large commercial and military ships. The decedent filed a complaint in 2004 against the defendants, an asbestos company and an asbestos settlement trust. When he passed away in 2013, the case was amended to include a survival action claim and a wrongful death claim on behalf of his spouse and son.
The plaintiffs did not present direct evidence of the particular insulation companies that worked closely with the decedent. They relied on the inference that the sheer number of ships on which the decedent had worked in close proximity to employees with known exposure to asbestos dust, combined with evidence that the defendants had a presence at the shipyard, was sufficient to allow the case to survive a summary judgment motion.