Indiana case goes to trial
The Indiana Gazette reports a product-liability lawsuit filed by a dying retiree of the Fisher Scientific Co. almost four years ago has made its way to trial this week in the Indiana County Court.
It was reported:
The suit filed by Joseph Carl Smith of Homer City RD 3 has been consolidated with claims that two other retired Fisher Scientific workers, Stanley Maschak of Shelocta RD 3 and John Lee Harris of Indiana, who also contracted cancer from exposure to asbestos in Fisher Scientific’s plant along Indian Springs Road in White Township.
Smith and his wife, Concetta, filed suit in July 2000, about three months after Smith had been diagnosed with mesothelioma, an incurable cancer of the lining of the lungs. Smith, 69, died in February 2001.
Joan Maschak filed a series of three lawsuits in 2000 and 2001, following her husband’s death at age 69 from mesothelioma in November 1999.
Harris, 68, initiated his case in November 2000, less than three months after surgeons removed most of his right lung to prevent the spread of lung cancer. An attorney said Tuesday that Harris is in remission.
The suits accused the companies of manufacturing or supplying asbestos-containing products that Smith, Maschak and Harris used in the assembly of medical and laboratory equipment in the Fisher plant. Fisher Scientific was not named as a defendant because Pennsylvania law prohibits workers from suing their employers.
The report went on to cover the opening statements:
Pete Paladino, an attorney representing Harris and Concetta Smith, told the jury that although Taylored Industries and Pittsburgh Gage simply furnished asbestos-containing products that were made by other companies, they were just as responsible as the manufacturers to provide sufficient warning of the dangers of asbestos to the Fisher Scientific Co. workers who used the products.
Attorney Ed Beachler, who represents Joan Maschak, said the men assembled ovens, furnaces, fume hoods and hot plates using insulating panels shipped to Fisher by Taylored Industries and were sickened by breathing microscopic fibers of asbestos from the panels. Beachler also said the men worked in the vicinity of pipes covered with asbestos-containing insulation furnished by Pittsburgh Gage.
The defense attorney for Taylored Industries, Matthew Wimer of Oakmont, said the company could not put a warning sticker on each asbestos panel that it shipped because stickers would jeopardize the panels’ fire-resistant properties. Instead, Wimer said, the company put warning notices in every box of panels that it shipped.
Wimer also told the jury that medical tests done on Harris’ cancerous lung tissue showed no signs of interstitial fibrosis or asbestosis, hallmarks of damage from inhaling asbestos fibers. Wimer said a doctor would testify that Harris, a pack-a-day cigarette smoker for 30 years, had the same kind of lung cancer that other smokers developed.