A man diagnosed with mesothelioma recently filed a lawsuit against Ford Motor Co., for use of asbestos in their auto parts. The man, Raymond Finerty, worked as a mechanic in Ireland though he is now a United States citizen. Mesothelioma lawyers at Pintas & Mullins detail this case below.
Ford attempted to have Finerty's lawsuit thrown out because his exposure occurred overseas, however, the New York court ruled that the company will have to face the suit because of its substantial role in the design of the parts used in Ireland.
Finerty worked as a mechanic in Ireland from the 1960s to 1980s, where he was exposed to asbestos through auto parts. The only cause of mesothelioma, a deadly cancer, is exposure to asbestos.
The New York court ruled that Ford USA acted as a guardian to the global Ford brand, enacting a large role in the design, development and use of the auto parts used by Ford UK. This led the court to posit that Ford USA may be held directly liable for distributing asbestos-containing auto parts, since it was in the best position to improve auto part safety or improve warnings about the hazards of asbestos.
Finerty was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2009 and filed suit in 2010. His asbestos exposure lawsuit was filed against numerous auto part manufacturers, such as Abex Corp., which have all been resolved with the exception of Ford.
This is an important ruling because it is one of the first where Ford has been held legally responsible for its role in European products. This could potentially allow people exposed to asbestos through Ford's products all over the world to have legal options.
Finerty's case is expected to go to trial in the upcoming months.
Mechanics and people who work in auto repair are at unusually high risk of asbestos exposure and the illnesses that result from it: mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis. Brakes and clutch parts have traditionally included asbestos, due to the substance's extreme heat and fire resistance. Workers are exposed by the dust emitting from the brake disk, drum, clutch cover, or wheel when these are removed.
Unfortunately, no one can tell whether a brake or clutch contains asbestos just by looking at it, and there are many small dust particles that cannot be seen with the eye. At-home and professional mechanics often have no idea they have been exposed to asbestos until they are diagnosed with cancer or asbestosis. For more information on EPA-recommended best practices for auto mechanics and asbestos, follow this link.
Numerous lawsuits have been filed against auto part companies on behalf of exposure victims. One of the most recent cases ended in July 2014, when a mesothelioma victim in California received more than $2 million. The man in this case sued Pneumo Abex for its design and manufacturing of asbestos-containing brakes. The jury found that there was substantial evidence that he was exposed to asbestos by sanding Abex's brakes.