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Government Can Be Sued By Asbestos Manufacturer

August 23, 1985

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Asbestos manufacturer Manville Corp. can sue the government for damages it paid a Navy shipyard worker who inhaled asbestos the company was required to supply during World War II, a federal judge has ruled.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Peckham on Thursday ruled that Manville can sue the government for allegedly failing to enforce federal safety standards and for negligence.

The worker, John C. Robinson, refitted ships and removed asbestos that had been installed by the company during World War II, according to a Manville lawyer.

Robinson, who worked at two naval shipyards in California from 1965 to 1980, settled a suit against Manville for asbestos-related illnesses for $45,000 in 1981. The company is suing the government for reimbursement of the money.

According to Manville, the company was required by law during the war to supply asbestos for the construction and repair of Navy ships. The company said the government had ″superior knowledge″ about the health dangers of asbestos but failed to enforce its own safety standards and prevented Manville from enforcing its own.

The government unsuccessfully sought to dismiss the suit before trial, saying it was not responsible for injuries caused by Manville’s product.

The company considers the suit a precedent for a number of cases involving shipyard workers afflicted with asbestosis, a lung disease caused by asbestos.

Manville has filed for protection under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy law due to asbestos litigation.

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