Law360: US Steel Must Face Seaman’s Asbestos Exposure Suit

An Ohio appellate panel on Monday revived a suit accusing U.S. Steel of causing a worker’s mesothelioma death due to asbestos exposure on company-owned ships, saying the trial judge was wrong to apply state law rather than federal law to the estate’s federal Jones Act and unseaworthiness claims.

The suit filed by the former merchant marine’s widow, Diane Shaffer, alleged that her husband was exposed to asbestos during his employment with U.S. Steel from 1960 to 1961 and asserts a claim under the Jones Act — a federal law that regulates United States maritime commerce — as well as an alleged breach of the general maritime duty to provide a seaworthy vessel, among other claims.

“The trial court’s reliance upon an Ohio statute and case law governing asbestos claims and applying the substantial factor causation test was in error because that Ohio law contradicts the long-standing federal law applying the featherweight standard to Jones Act claims,” the panel said.

Gibbs Henderson, an attorney for Shaffer, told Law360 on Monday that they are satisfied with the outcome.

“It’s unfortunate that issues as clear-cut as these required the intervention of the Court of Appeals,” he said. “That said, we’re thrilled with the decision, and look forward to finally getting the opportunity to present Mr. Shaffer’s case to a jury.”

Shaffer is represented by Charles P. Stern and Gibbs C. Henderson of Waters Kraus & Paul.

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