A San Francisco state appeals court reinstated a previously dismissed mesothelioma lawsuit on Monday, filed by the family of a man who served in the military and worked at a Navy construction center where he was allegedly exposed to asbestos, and subsequently died.
According to court records, Gene Lepore worked as a civilian trainer for the Naval Construction Battalion Center at Port Hueneme from 1974 to 2000, where he visited the CED vehicle repair shop to oversee mechanics’ job duties while they worked on brakes. His job required him to identify personnel training needs, including those in the repair shop. Prior to 1986, there weren’t regulations in the vehicle repair shop that enforced safety protections from dangerous minerals, such as asbestos, as well as other toxins.
Although Lepore wasn’t a mechanic nor did he work on automobiles or trucks, he was, just as the workers, reportedly exposed to a large amount of asbestos each time he went to the CED. A number of cars and trucks were repaired at the CED, with replacement parts for the vehicles coming from both the original manufacturers, as well as aftermarket manufacturers,
According to Lepore’s attorney, Lepore constantly faced a clouded asbestos-filled repair shop each time he visited. In turn, he developed mesothelioma. In 2009, Lepore filed a mesothelioma lawsuit against the makers of the brakes and its parts, Ford, Navistar and Kelsey-Hayes (and others), but passed away from the illness in 2010, before the court case was concluded. In 2012, a San Francisco judge dismissed the case, stating that the plaintiff and his witnesses didn’t provide enough proof to substantiate the claim.
On February 8, the the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco disagreed with the judge’s assessment after the family filed an appeal against the decision after adding additional evidence to the case. According to the appeals court, there was indeed enough information provided for the case to continue. The appeals court determined that a jury should be able to decide if the case provides proof enough to show the defendants were responsible for Lepore developing malignant mesothelioma.
In the case against the Ford Motor Company, Lepore and others stated that it was Ford brake products being worked on when asbestos was released into the air. A colleague of Lepore confirmed that Lepore would stand in the repair shop and oversee brake repairs while workers used Ford brake products. The appeals court decided that there’s enough to “conclude Lepore was exposed to asbestos released from products manufactured or distributed by Ford.”
Lepore’s wife, Geraldine Bierner Lepore, and his children,Kristin Marie Reinholz and Michael Lepore, are now carrying on the lawsuit in his behalf, hoping to get justice for the pain and suffering he endured for many years, as well as his medical expenses.
Not all of the companies filed in the lawsuit, however, were overturned. Gibbs International Inc. wasn’t overturned after the appeals court decided there wasn’t enough evidence to support that Lepore was affected by asbestos via the company’s products. Regardless, the family is happy with the appeal court’s decision
Companies included in the lawsuit haven’t comment on the decision to overturn the lawsuit.
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