Navy Vet’s Family Pursues Justice Following Mesothelioma Death

Published on October 03, 2022

Nearly 70 years after serving in the U.S. Navy, Keith W. Hipwell died of malignant mesothelioma, the rare and deadly form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Following his death, his family filed suit against Foster Wheeler Energy Corporation and others, blaming his painful death on their negligence and failure to warn. Though Foster Wheeler attempted to have the case against them dismissed, U.S. District Court Judge Jill N. Parrish denied their motion for summary judgment and is allowing the Navy veteran’s case to proceed.

Mesothelioma Blamed on Shipboard Exposure to Asbestos

According to the claim, the mesothelioma victim served in the United States Navy aboard the U.S.S. Foss from 1951 to 1953. His boiler tender responsibilities put him in direct and constant contact with two Foster Wheeler boilers that contained approximately 250 pounds of asbestos. His asbestos exposure was exacerbated by the company’s specifications that asbestos millboard, asbestos rope, folded woven asbestos tape, and asbestos gaskets be used in their boilers.

Mr. Hipwell’s survivors’ mesothelioma lawsuit points to Foster Wheeler’s failure to warn of the health hazards resulting from exposure to asbestos, despite their previous knowledge. Because neither the company nor the Navy warned of the dangers of asbestos, Mr. Hipwell did not know its hazards and did not take any precautions to protect himself. 

Asbestos Company Argues Against Role in Man’s Mesothelioma

Foster Wheeler filed a motion to dismiss the mesothelioma claim, arguing that there was no evidence that Mr. Hipwell had been frequently or regularly exposed to asbestos-containing products associated with their boilers. They also claimed that there was no proof that they had a duty to warn him of any hazards associated with their products, that the claims were barred by the Government Contractor Defense, and that there was no proof that he would have taken any action to protect himself had he been provided with warnings about the danger of asbestos.

Despite the company’s assertions, Judge Parrish denied the company’s motion to dismiss the mesothelioma claims. She noted that the victim’s family had provided sufficient evidence of his exposure to asbestos, that there was sufficient evidence that Foster Wheeler had a duty to warn of the dangers of asbestos, that there is a genuine dispute about the protection offered by the government contractor defense, and that what the victim would have done had he been given warning was “essentially unknowable.” The case will move forward for a jury to hear.

If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, it’s important to work with experienced and knowledgeable resources.  For help, 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