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Plaintiff ‘s final rebuttal witness, a USA Navy Officer, Sinks $27 Million Claim against Asbestos Company

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Retired Naval Shipyard boilermaker Cliff Little claimed in a Zoom trial that his mesothelioma was caused by Pryor-Giggey Co.'s asbestos, but there was no evidence that its products were used at the shipyards Litttle worked.

Seattle, WADespite mesothelioma victim Cliff Little providing a substantial amount of evidence in his asbestos lawsuit against Pryor-Giggey, a company that manufactured asbestos-contaminated boiler refractory insulation, the company successfully argued that there was no evidence to prove its products were used at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard where Little worked.

Further, defendant’s attorney Brian Smith of Foley & Mansfield argued that one of the plaintiff’s witnesses wasn’t credible and Little’s mesothelioma could have been caused by asbestos-containing products from other manufacturers during his time at the shipyard.

Little performed boiler upgrades on U.S. Navy ships, which involved removing and replacing asbestos-containing castable refractory named Lite-Wate, a heat-resistant material that lines the inside of the boiler. Ripping out and replacing these asbestos insulation in ship boilers created a large amount of dust in the air that contained asbestos fibers –air that was routinely inhaled at the Naval Shipyard during the 1970s.

Plaintiff’s Evidence

The dangers of asbestos exposure were well known before the 1970s. And mesothelioma was directly linked to asbestos. But it wasn’t until the mid 1970s that federal legislation banned the use of asbestos in everyday items—unfortunately too late for many asbestos victims, many of whom worked in Navy Shipyards. But the mesothelioma cancer lawsuit stated that the defendant continued to use the carcinogenic product in its parts supplied to shipyards and Little’s lawyers, Matthew Bergman and Vanessa Oslund, produced sales receipts from 1972 showing that Pryor-Giggey had purchased 1,000 pounds of asbestos from Johns Manville and testimony from three of the company’s employees who had testified about mixing the carcinogenic mineral into Lite-Wate 50, the company’s boiler insulation that was used in Mr. Little’s workplace, according to

Steelworker Alfred Burton, a former Puget Sound employee videotaped a ship tour in 2019 to explain where he had seen bags of Pryor Giggey's insulation, but Pryor-Giggey’s attorney pointed out that he was testifying from his memory only, from 40 years ago, and he was the only witness.

Commander Andrew Ott appeared in the Zoom trial on March 8 (the trial was expected to conclude by March 12 at the latest) as the final rebuttal witness for Little. In a blow to Little, Ott said he had “no documentary evidence” that P-G Lite-Wate 50 was ever used at the shipyard where he had spent several years helping to supervise ship overhauls. According to Law360, Ott was an engineer by training, worked as a propulsion specialist and helped oversee the 1979-1982 overhaul of the USS Bainbridge at PSNS to outfit it with eight nuclear power plants for propulsion.

Sadly, Little’s wife Fannie Little told the jury that he husband wasn’t expected to live long enough to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary this year, given his diagnosis of sarcomatoid mesothelioma.

The civil jury trial, conducted over the Zoom platform, Clifton Little and Fannie Little v. Air & Liquid Systems Inc., et al., case number 20-2-11266-6 KNT in the Superior Court of Washington for King County.


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