Val Johns and his wife of 36 years, Sharon, had 3 children, and enjoyed camping and gardening together. Val, age 61, was also an avid fisherman and hunter and enjoyed doing mechanical work around his home. Soon after his diagnosis of mesothelioma and subsequent surgery in early 2000, he would get short of breath with just the slightest bit of exertion. Obviously, he and Sharon could no longer participate in the activities they had once enjoyed doing as a couple. They also could no longer take the trip they had planned on taking to Washington to visit their grandson.
Val was exposed to asbestos while serving in the U.S. Navy from 1957-1960. He was aboard the USS Arcadia for only 2-3 weeks before transferring to the USS Ware. Aboard the USS Arcadia, Val had “every low life job there was.” But he spent 27 months aboard the USS Ware as an interior communications electrician where he maintained all of the communication circuits, intercom systems, telephone systems and all of the signal and alarm systems. This equipment was located in “practically every compartment on the ship,” including the boiler and engine rooms. While it was not his job to cut pipe covering, which was fairly dirty and dusty, Val was around while it was being done and recalls breathing in the dust. The USS Ware was also in dry dock in 1959 for about 3 months. Val received an honorable discharge from the Navy the following year.
Val was also exposed to asbestos by working with joint compound while performing home remodeling projects in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Val mixed the joint compound with water, applied the mixture and then sanded it down with sandpaper. The dust created by this was so thick that it was necessary for him to clean and sweep immediately afterwards. He recalled breathing this dust many times during his home projects. Val thoroughly enjoyed working with his hands around the house, and the family was devastated to learn that this work aided in his deadly diagnosis in 2000.
In October 2000, Val, his wife Sharon, and Waters Kraus & Paul brought suit in Dallas County, Texas against the product manufacturers, naval equipment manufacturers, and asbestos suppliers of the asbestos products and equipment to which Val was exposed during his career. Sadly, before the case could go to trial and less than 2 years after his diagnosis with mesothelioma, Val Johns passed away.
As a result of Val’s death, Sharon was forced to return to work. As she waited for her case to go to trial, the politicians debated an asbestos bill that threatened to derail her case, including any pending and future settlements. Without the money from pending and future settlements, her financial security was unstable at best. She agreed to travel with Waters Kraus & Paul to Washington, D.C. where she shared her story with her senators from Michigan. The asbestos bill was thrown out and her case has since been successfully resolved.