CBS Corp. removes Madison County asbestos suit to federal court

By Bethany Krajelis | Feb 11, 2013


CBS Corp. has removed a Madison County asbestos lawsuit to federal court and asked a judge there to dismiss it.

As the administrator of Richard Spells’ estate, Richard Spells Jr. in October 2012 sued CBS Corp., the successor by merger to the corporation formerly known as Westinghouse Electric Corp., and 30 other defendants.

Spells, a Georgia resident, alleges that his decedent was injured, in part, due to his contact with asbestos-containing equipment during his time as a U.S. Navy machinist. He worked on several ships between 1958 and 1980, with a few breaks.

According to the complaint, the Spellses first became aware that Richard Spells had developed lung cancer in May 2011 and learned it was caused by asbestos exposure. He died in June 2012.

The suit accuses the defendants of failing to exercise care and caution for Spells’ safety by including asbestos in their products when they knew or should have known about the dangers associated with exposure to asbestos.

It seeks more than $50,000 and includes counts for negligence, willful and wanton conduct, conspiracy, negligent spoliation of evidence and strict liability.

CBS Corp. asserts in its Feb. 7 notice for removal that the suit should be handled in federal court because it was acting under the authority of the government and has “a colorable federal law-based ‘government contractor’ defense to said claim or claims.”

In its answer to the complaint, CBS Corp. on Monday denied that it “caused or contributed to the decedent Richard Spells’ alleged exposure to asbestos.”

The corporation offered nearly four dozen affirmative defenses and asked the federal court to dismiss the suit and award it costs.

In addition, CBS Corp. asserts that Spells failed to state a cause of action supporting punitive or exemplary damages and that any award of punitive damages would violate constitutional safeguards provided to the defendants.

Robert Sanderson and Daniel Donahue of Foley & Mansfield in St. Louis represent CBS Corp and Steven Aroesty of Napoli Bern Ripka Shkolnik in Edwardsville represents Spells.

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