Judge Rejects Asbestos Companies’ Argument that Smoking History Should Negate Liability for Lung Cancer

Malignant mesothelioma is just one illness that is attributed to exposure to asbestos. People who have been exposed to the toxic material have also been diagnosed with chronic illnesses such as asbestos and COPD, as well as other deadly diseases including asbestos-related lung cancer. In a recent case, a man exposed to significant levels of asbestos over his work life was diagnosed with and died of asbestos-related lung cancer. When his family filed suit against the asbestos companies responsible, the companies attempted to have the case dismissed because of his history of smoking cigarettes.

Asbestos-related lung cancer

Avondale Shipyard and Others are Frequent Defendants in Mesothelioma and Cancer Claims

When James Becnel was diagnosed with asbestos-related cancer in 2019, he immediately knew that his exposure to asbestos while working in Avondale Shipyards must have contributed to his illness. Before his death the same year, he filed suit against them and other companies whose asbestos-contaminated products he’d worked with. But the companies pushed back against his claim, arguing that because he had been a lifelong cigarette smoker, it was his own actions that led to his illness. They asked for the case against them to be dismissed.

Avondale Shipyards is one of many companies with a long history of defending against claims of causing malignant mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses. These companies attempt to use whatever legal loophole they can to avoid liability for their asbestos-contaminated products and work environments. Mr. Becnel’s history of smoking cigarettes provided them with the opportunity to claim contributory negligence and argue that he, and after his death his heirs, had no way to prove that their product was responsible for his illness.

Conflicting Testimony from Expert Witnesses in Asbestos Cancer Case

The case was heard by Senior District Judge Ivan L.R. Lemelle of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, who rejected the asbestos companies’ arguments for dismissal and ruled that the lawsuit should proceed. Judge Lemelle noted that expert witness testimony regarding Mr. Becnel’s illness had raised a legitimate question as to whether his cancer was a result of his years of smoking cigarettes or his years of exposure to asbestos in his workplace. With that important question open to debate, the judge said that the answer could only be decided by a jury and that the case should proceed.

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Paul Danziger

Paul Danziger

Reviewer and Editor

Paul Danziger grew up in Houston, Texas and earned a law degree from Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago. For over 25 years years he has focused on representing mesothelioma cancer victims and others hurt by asbestos exposure. Paul and his law firm have represented thousands of people diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer, recovering significant compensation for injured clients. Every client is extremely important to Paul and he will take every call from clients who want to speak with him. Paul and his law firm handle mesothelioma cases throughout the United States.

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