Washington State Mesothelioma Victim Prevails Against Successor to Former Employer

Washington state resident Jeffrey Cockrum filed a mesothelioma lawsuit against Howmet Aerospace, the successor to his former employer, and several other companies. He later dismissed his original claim and resubmitted it to add another company to the list of defendants. In response, Howmet accused him of fraudulent joinder, a legal term that describes inappropriate adding a defendant for fraudulent purposes. The Washington state courts dismissed the company’s claim, adding that they were misinterpreting the law.

Washington state

Mesothelioma Victim Adjusts Claim After Initial Filing

Jeffrey Cockrum’s mesothelioma lawsuit was filed in Washington State’s King County Superior Court, but when he amended his claim to add Washington-based North Coast Electrical without first getting permission from the court, he withdrew his case and resubmitted it. In response, Howmet Aerospace, successor to his former employer Alcoa Wenatchee Works, accused him of having added the company to the list of defendants in order to avoid having the case removed to federal court, where juries are often more friendly to asbestos companies.

In making their fraudulent joinder argument, Howmet pointed out that it was only after they’d argued for the mesothelioma claim to be removed to federal court that Mr. Cockrum amended his claim to add the Washington-based company as a defendant. They said that he had submitted a “sham defendant” in order to defeat their motion for removal, and said that his evidence in support of naming the electrical company was circumstantial.

Sham Defendant Argument Denied in Washington Mesothelioma Claim

In responding to Howmet’s argument, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington noted that the company’s argument regarding circumstantial evidence inappropriate placed the burden of proof on the victim, and that at this point in the case, it was a defendant’s job to prove that they could not have been responsible for his illness. The court also pointed out that Mr. Cockrum’s deposition testimony established that he had been exposed to asbestos from North Coast’s products, and that therefore the company had been appropriately – rather than fraudulently – named as a defendant. The case will be heard in the state’s courts.

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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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