U.S. Magistrate Donald Wilkerson denied remand of an asbestos lawsuit to Madison County saying that plaintiff's arguments were “unconvincing."
Wilkerson, presiding over pre-trial matters in the case removed to federal court in East St. Louis, ruled June 9 in favor of defendant Crane Co., a valve manufacturer.
Crane removed the case to district court last November citing the Federal Officer Removal statute.
However, the plaintiff disputed that Crane presented sufficient evidence to present a colorable defense.
In his order, Wilkerson noted that Crane showed that it manufactured equipment for the Navy according to military specifications and acted under direction of the Navy.
He wrote that the plaintiff tried shifting the burden of proof by arguing the defendant failed to prove its products were aboard a U.S. Navy ship – leading to the question of why the plaintiff named the company as a defendant in the first place.
Wilkerson wrote that plaintiff Elaine Mohler only addressed whether the federal contractor defense can be asserted against her failure-to-warn claim, which it can.
Also, Mohler attacked the value of the defendant’s evidence by indicating that a defense expert's opinions are “conjecture and speculation,” which Wilkerson said misses the mark because Crane did not yet have the burden of proving its defense – only that it offered a colorable defense.
Wilkerson wrote that the court offers no opinion on the validity of Crane’s federal contractor defense, just on its right to have the case tried in federal court.
Mohler originally filed her complaint last September against roughly 100 defendants in Madison County on behalf of the estate of her husband Larry Mohler, who died in April 2012.
She is represented by attorneys at Shrader and Associates - based in Houston and with an office in Glen Carbon.
Crane Co. is represented by attorneys at Polsinelli Shughart in St. Louis and HeplerBroom based in Edwardsville.
In her suit, Mohler says her husband worked as a pipefitter while enlisted in the U.S. Navy from 1956 to 1959, and again in various employments after his service.
Through his work as a pipefitter, the decedent was allegedly exposed to asbestos fibers, causing him to develop mesothelioma in October 2011.
According to the nine-count complaint, the defendants are accused of failing to warn of asbestos hazards, failing to provide adequate safety instructions or equipment and fraudulently misrepresenting the dangers of asbestos exposure, among other allegations.