Cuomo v. Crane Co. – Asbestos Exposure Work Injury Claim

In North Carolina, workers who have suffered on-the-job injury or illness must file a claim in a timely manner. The North Carolina Industrial Commission allows some latitude to injured workers who fail to file written notices of injury with an employer, but all are bound by the requirement that a claim must be filed with the commission within two years of the incident resulting in injury. Otherwise, the claim is forever barred.
Because the exceptions to this rule are extremely narrow, it’s imperative workers suffering occupational injury or illness contact an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer right away.

One of the very few exceptions that may be recognized would be occupational illness stemming from asbestos exposure. The reason exceptions are made in these cases is because workers generally do not know whether exposure to asbestos at work has caused them injury or illness until the very late stages of asbestos-related disease (such as asbestosis and mesothelioma). Until symptoms appear, often decades after the fact, workers would have no indication of illness.

Our Asheville workers’ compensation lawyers know workers suffering asbestos-related diseases and their families may have several options for benefits and compensation. Those may include workers’ compensation benefits. Additionally, our experienced attorneys can help clients explore options for litigation against third-party manufacturers of asbestos-laden products used by their employers.

While workers’ compensation is deemed an “exclusive remedy,” that refers only to a worker’s inability to take legal action against an employer who timely proffers workers’ compensation benefits for on occupational illness or injury. It does not refer to third-party actions.

By pursuing both types of claims, individuals can maximize compensation.

These types of claims tend to be highly complex, and require a seasoned litigator. Challenges abound, as the recent case of Cuomo v. Crane Co. illustrates.

In this instance, worker filed a claim after he was reportedly exposed to asbestos while serving aboard a U.S. Navy ship between 1974 and 1980. His lawsuit involved a failure to warn action against defendant manufacturer Crane, which for years offered a comprehensive range of mechanical sealing systems and power transmission couplings that contained asbestos. (His widow was replaced as plaintiff/personal executive of his estate after he died.)

The company removed the case to federal court and then asserted the federal contractor defense, claiming the Navy, a government entity, either affirmatively proscribed or dictated the content of the warnings of its parts to those aboard the ship.

Although the district court refused to accept this reasoning, the federal appellate court reversed, finding the defense evidence sufficient. While this means plaintiff will not be able to proceed with her claim against this particular defendant, there are still claims pending against 24 other firms that provided asbestos-laden materials to the service branch.

Those claims may still be pursued.

The military isn’t the only place where asbestos exposure occurred at work. Mines, textile mills, construction sites and auto manufacturing plants were also common locations for such exposure.

If you have been injured at work in North Carolina, contact the Lee Law Offices at 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
Cuomo v. Crane Co., Nov. 13, 2014, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second cuit

More Blog Entries
Hall v. North Carolina Services Corp. – Workers’ Compensation Liens, Nov. 10. 2014, Asheville Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog

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