An asbestos claim against Ford Motor Co. and manufacturer Cummins Inc. moves to trial where a jury will decide whether a former Ford mechanic developed peritoneal mesothelioma as a result of working with the companies’ asbestos-containing brake linings.
Former Ford Mechanic Develops Peritoneal Mesothelioma
Victor Michel worked a career as an engine mechanic at Ford Motor Co. before being diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma. The iconic American motor business is the second-largest US-based automaker in the world, but in the past, the company was known to use asbestos-containing brakes and engine parts. Automotive workers who installed or worked on these parts were put at risk of developing asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma is caused when workers inhaled or ingest airborne asbestos fibers, which become embedded in the lining of the lungs, heart and abdomen. In some cases, trapped asbestos fibers can trigger the growth of mesothelioma cancer cells. Mesothelioma’s onset is between 10 and 50 years after exposure, meaning many former Ford workers may yet develop the disease.
After receiving his diagnosis, Michel filed a lawsuit against the motor company. Now a wrongful death lawsuit, Michel’s case is being brought forth by his family following his death in 2018.
Judge Denies Ford a Summary Judgment
Ford Motor Co. denies the Michel family claims, stating there isn’t enough evidence for a case to be made against them. As such, Ford requested a summary judgment to have Louisiana’s U.S. District Judge, Sarah S. Vance dismiss the case. Judge Vance denied Ford Motor Co’s request for a summary judgment, granting Michel’s family the go-ahead to have their case heard at trial.
At trial, a jury will determine whether Michel’s asbestos exposure was related to his career at Ford Motor Co. while using parts made by Cummins Inc. The two businesses argue that it can’t be proven Michel’s illness was related to his career, yet the plaintiff’s family insists that his mesothelioma was a direct result of working on asbestos-containing engines and brakes made by Ford and Cummins.
Case Moves Forward to Trial
Experts will now testify as to whether the asbestos used in Ford and Cummins products can cause mesothelioma. However, Cummins claims the family can’t prove which parts Michel worked on specifically. Cummins have come under fire in the past for asbestos use, and a corporate representative has testified that some of Cummins products contained asbestos at the time that Michel worked on them.
So far, three experts have given their opinions on the case, deeming Michel’s claims as reliable and relevant. While the verdict is still uncertain, Michel’s family could be awarded substantial financial compensation from both Ford and Cummins if they win the case.
The success of this trial could mean future Ford asbestos claims or cases made against Cummins and other automotive parts companies may have a favorable outcome for the victims.
Ford Caught Up in Asbestos Allegations
Despite strong allegations, Michel’s case isn’t a guaranteed success. In 2017, the estate of Arthur Juni (who died of mesothelioma in 2014) was awarded $11 million in a jury verdict against Ford Motor Co. The decision was contested by Ford in 2018 and their appeal was granted. The panel of appeal judges ruled 3-1 that the plaintiff failed to sufficiently prove that Juni’s death was caused by his exposure to Ford automotive parts.
Ford asbestos claims and allegations aren’t new. In 1971, it was documented that Ford looked at ways to replace asbestos in brake linings, but decided that the alternative was too expensive. This proves that they were aware of the dangers, but made no effort to protect their workers.
An unpublished report from the 1960s explains that brake linings at the time contained between 40-60% asbestos. In 1983, Ford began a phase-out of all asbestos-containing brake products as a result of numerous lawsuits from mesothelioma victims.
In an additional attempt to cover-up their alleged negligence, Ford has reportedly spent almost $40 million funding journal articles and research to clear them from any wrongdoing. Advocates say that Ford’s research contains little scientific evidence and, instead, only draws more attention to the motor brand’s lack of care for its employees.
If the Michel family’s case is successful, it could be yet another black eye for Ford but another step forward in justice for mesothelioma patients.