Asbestos Companies Point to Victim’s Smoking to Avoid Responsibility

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Published on September 07, 2022

It has been well established that exposure to asbestos causes malignant mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer, and other deadly diseases. Despite this, asbestos companies offer numerous defenses and arguments against being held responsible when their products are named in personal injury lawsuits. In a recent case, multiple defendants argued that they should not be held responsible for the damage caused by their products because the victim was also a smoker.

Shipyard Worker’s Lung Cancer Blamed on Exposure to Asbestos

The case was filed by James Becnel, a man who had been employed in various positions by or on the premises of Avondale Shipyards in 1965. Admittedly a cigarette smoker, Mr. Becnel filed suit against multiple defendants, claiming that he was exposed to asbestos and asbestos-contaminated products at work. In 2019 he was diagnosed with asbestos-related cancer and filed suit asserting several negligence claims. He died in the same year and his heirs were substituted as plaintiffs.

The asbestos companies accused of causing Mr. Becnel’s death have been named in many mesothelioma lawsuits originating out of Avondale Shipyards. In this case, they filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that because Mr. Becnel had smoked cigarettes his claims should be dismissed: they called his smoking contributory negligence that barred the family from recovering under contributory negligence principles.

Judge Denies Motion for Summary Judgment

In reviewing the case, Senior District Judge Ivan L.R. Lemelle of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana denied the asbestos companies’ petition. He methodically answered the various aspects of the case and whether contributory negligence was an available defense or basis for dismissal, noting that there was conflicting testimony regarding the cause of Mr. Becnel’s death and that the asbestos companies had not provided sufficient evidence that his smoking had led to his cancer. As a result, the case will move forward for a jury to weigh.

If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma or any other asbestos-related cancer, it is important for you to know your rights. For information, contact the Patient Advocates at today at 1-800-692-8608.

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Written by Terri Oppenheimer

Terri Heimann Oppenheimer

Terri Heimann Oppenheimer is the head writer of our news blog. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. Terri believes that knowledge is power and she is committed to sharing news about the impact of mesothelioma, the latest research and medical breakthroughs, and victims’ stories.

Learn more about and contact Terri