Union Carbide claims it was a government contractor in move to fed court

Steve Gonzalez Aug. 17, 2007, 7:00am

Union Carbide removed a Madison County asbestos case that was filed by James Weese of Tennessee to federal court claiming it is allowed to rely on federal officer removal statutes.

Weese filed suit against 118 defendant corporations on June 27, alleging he was diagnosed with mesothelioma after working with or around asbestos during his 50-year career as a pipefitter, laborer and welder.

Asbestos cases are rarely removed to federal court from Madison County. However, in this instance Union Carbide claims Weese's allegations against them arose from Union Carbide's actions as contractors at United States Government Agencies building nuclear weapons in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

According to Union Carbide, the company intends to assert the "government contractor defense" in response to Weese's allegations.

Union Carbide claims that from the 1940s until 1984 it was the operations manager and contractor for the government and therefore was acting under an officer or agency of the United States during the period of time Weese is alleging exposure at the Oak Ridge facility.

Union Carbide also is asking the federal judge to stay the proceeding while it tries to have this case moved to a Multi District Litigation (MDL) as a "tag along."

According to Union Carbide, on July 29, 1991, the Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation entered an order that transferred all asbestos case pending in federal courts to the United States District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Weese claims the defendants knew or should have known that the asbestos fibers contained in their products had a toxic, poisonous and highly deleterious effect upon the health of people.

According to Weese, he was diagnosed with mesothelioma on March 16, and later learned his disease was wrongfully caused.

Weese alleges that the defendants included asbestos in their products even when adequate substitutes were available and failed to provide any or adequate instructions concerning the safe methods of working with and around asbestos.

He also claims that the defendants failed to require and advise employees of hygiene practices designed to reduce or prevent carrying asbestos fibers home.

Represented by Tim Thompson of SimmonsCooper in East Alton, Weese is seeking at least $650,000 in damages for negligence, willful and wanton acts, conspiracy, and negligent spoliation of evidence among other allegations.

U.S. District Judge Phil Gilbert was initially assigned the case however he recused himself passing the case Judge David Herndon.

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