John Shelton, a Texas native who was born and raised in East Texas, married his first love in 1965. Together they had two sons. John is also a Viet Nam vet. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1966. During his tour he participated in a rocket raid, which earned him a bronze star for heroic and meritorious achievement. He was honorably discharged in 1969. For a short time in 1964, John worked for Pittsburgh Corning manufacturing pipe insulation. Soon after being discharged from the military in 1969, John went to work for Goodyear/Kelly-Springfield manufacturing tires. Unfortunately, he was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 1999. Doctors linked it to asbestos exposure.
John’s asbestos exposure started in 1964 when he worked for Pittsburgh Corning for 5 months. The plant manufactured asbestos pipe insulation. John started out as a feeder operator working directly with asbestos fibers. He fed raw and recycled asbestos material through a machine to create the product. Large burlap sacks containing raw asbestos were brought in by forklift, the sacks were cut open and the asbestos was pulled out of the sacks with his bare hands and spread out into the feeder creating dust. John then became an oven operator. He unloaded the finished asbestos pipe insulation from the ovens, made sure the product was dry, and loaded it into crates. The crates were then moved down the line to the saw room 20 yards away. From his workstation at the ovens, John could easily see the saw room where the insulation was cut to order. The cutting processes in the saw room created visibly dusty conditions.
John’s exposure continued when he went to work for Goodyear/Kelly-Springfield as a machine operator or tire builder in 1969. John testified that the molds or tire presses used to create the tires were steam operated, they were covered with asbestos insulation. The insulation would have to be removed and replaced any time the tire presses needed repair. The repairs would take place while John was on the job causing him to be covered in asbestos-containing dust. Additionally, early in John’s employment there, construction was well underway to expand the plant. Natkin & Company – one of the contractors that worked on the expansion (later, a defendant in John’s law suit) – claimed they did not have documentation stating that they were to provide asbestos-containing insulation for the expansion project. Although, Waters Kraus & Paul obtained documentation that proved the contractors were to provide such materials for the project per the contract. Further, one of John’s co-workers testified that no one from Goodyear/Kelly-Springfield or the contractors (Natkin & Company and AC&S, Inc.) ever gave any warnings regarding the exposure to asbestos. Nor did the co-worker recall anyone wearing a mask to protect themselves from the affects of breathing in asbestos dust.
In the fall of 1999, John visited the doctor for an unrelated issue. The doctor discovered what appeared to be nodules on John’s lung. John soon endured a bronchoscopy and a biopsy which included the placement of a chest tube. The diagnosis came in October, 1999 – mesothelioma. By now, John had seen four doctors and all of them confirmed his condition was related to his previous asbestos exposure. Unfortunately, John was not a candidate for surgery but was immediately started on chemotherapy. The treatment alone was very taxing on John’s body and he was forced to retire later that year. He could no longer participate in the activities that he once enjoyed – fishing and vacationing in the South with his wife. She loved touring the old plantation homes.
Fortunately, John’s family was very close. He received lots of support from Shearon and their sons. Although, Shearon worked full time she regularly took time off to be with him especially during his chemo treatment. His oldest son lives nearby and visited them regularly. And even though John’s younger son wasn’t able to visit as often, he called daily to check on him. John and his wife, Shearon, filed an asbestos lawsuit with Waters Kraus & Paul in 2000. Sadly, John lost his life to mesothelioma in January, 2001. However, trial was successfully reached in 2003. John’s family was awarded a favorable verdict.