Allan Whaley grew up in Montana where he attended school until he joined the U.S. Navy in 1959. Allan married soon after his honorable discharge in 1961. He and his wife, Neila, lived in Richland, Washington and were married for 42 years. They had four grown children together in addition to ten grandchildren. Early in 2003, The Whaley’s purchased 5-acres of land and built their dream home so he could watch his grandkids grow up. The dream did not last long. Allan became ill during a hunting trip later that year and was diagnosed with mesothelioma shortly afterwards – the result of asbestos exposure while serving in the U.S. Navy.
Allan was enlisted with the U.S. Navy from August 1959 to November 1967. During his tour of duty, he served aboard the U.S.S. Blue, U.S.S. Samuel N. Moore and U.S.S. Wilkinson. From the U.S.S. Wilkinson Allan went to the Great Lakes Naval Training Center for Machinist Mate A School and then to the U.S.S. Thomaston. From there, he went to the Naval Amphibious Base in Coronado. Allan also recalled being dry-docked in shipyards at Bethlehem Steel in San Diego, Hunters Point in San Francisco and, Portland, Oregon.
Allan was exposed to asbestos-containing products and equipment throughout the length of his service in the U.S. Navy. As a fireman’s apprentice, fireman and, later a machinist mate, he worked in the boiler/fire room and engine room. He maintained and repaired equipment such as forced draft blowers, boilers and service generators, various valves and pumps, evaporators and condensers, removing and replacing lagging (asbestos-containing insulation), as well as cleaning the existing valve and gasket material. He spent the majority of his time below deck, even when he wasn’t working.
The removal of lagging and other asbestos-containing insulation and materials during Allan’s routine duties created a very dusty situation. It was well known that the Navy used asbestos-containing products on their equipment. And on occasion, Allen saw the products’ labels which confirmed it. He was never warned of the dangers of asbestos and never wore a mask or respirator – none was ever offered. With the lack of protection and the poor ventilation in the bowels of the ships, breathing the hazardous dust was unavoidable. But it would be years before the damage was discovered.
Allan began having breathing problems in September 2003, but just attributed it to his weight gain. During a hunting trip in October/November he had to be taken to the V.A. hospital in Walla Walla, WA. Doctors found a pleural effusion (excess fluid in the chest) on his right side and had to remove two liters of fluid. They also discovered nodules on both lungs in his pleura – the sack surrounding the lungs. A painful biopsy was preformed at St. Mary’s hospital where they removed more fluid from his lung through a chest tube. He was finally diagnosed with mesothelioma on December 1st. Unfortunately, he was not a candidate for surgery but chemotherapy was started that month. As a result of the treatment, Allan was tired, he experienced loss of appetite, hair loss and, nausea.
Life completely changed over a matter of months. Allan was put on oxygen to help him breath after his lung collapsed. The Whaleys’ were concerned that they would not be able to make the note on their new property. They were afraid they would lose their home as a result of Allan’s disease. The Whaleys’ sought legal help. Waters Kraus Paul & Siegel, LLP, filed their case just days before Christmas 2003. Allan was given six months to live. Understandably, he was emotional and unable to enjoy the new house and land. He opted not to undergo any additional treatment and was sent home to die. At 62 years of age, Allan lost his battle with mesothelioma in June 2004. Just three months later and one year from the first symptoms, the Whaleys’ case reach trial. It was successfully resolved. Neila no longer has to worry about the house note, she can sit on her porch with ease and watch the grandchildren play.