The pumps, valves, gaskets, and pipe parts used by Leslie contained asbestos, which has been known since the 1970s to be toxic and lead to asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma. Leslie used asbestos-containing products through the 1980s.
Harmful Products and Health Consequences
Inhaling asbestos-containing dust and fibers is the primary cause of asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma. Mesothelioma can take up to 20-40 years to develop. Many Navy veterans may have been exposed to asbestos-containing products manufactured by Leslie and other companies. Ship maintenance workers were often at very high risk because they were exposed in close quarters to the dangerous fibers and dust.
Boiler room workers who came into contact with Leslie’s asbestos-containing pipes, insulation, controls, valves, regulators, steam water heaters, and packing materials are still at risk of becoming ill. Civilian workers who deconstructed these navy ships were also exposed and at risk for pulmonary problems.
Lawsuits, Bankruptcy and an Asbestos Trust
Leslie Controls filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2010 after being served with more than a thousand personal injury lawsuits involving asbestos claims. Court documents show that most of these claims came from people who were exposed to asbestos-containing products on Navy ships between 1940 and 1980. Litigants were barred from suing the Navy because of restrictions and the military’s limited liability status. Thus, most veterans who were injured had to instead sue the manufacturers whose toxic materials were used on the ships that made them sick.
Leslie was one of many such manufacturers and distributors that faced such lawsuits when people could not directly sue the military.
Prior to the bankruptcy filing, the company faced paying more than a million dollars in injury claims from a service member who worked with asbestos-containing gaskets and valves manufactured by Leslie. That decision was later appealed and reversed because the appeals court ruled that the plaintiff had not sufficiently proven the cause of his illness was linked with Leslie’s manufactured parts specifically.