Non-mesothelioma cancers may result from numerous causes other than asbestos exposure. Accordingly, defendants may defend certain cancer claims by demonstrating the disease was most likely the result of exposure to other known carcinogens, such as tobacco. In Lorraine J. Liptak v. Crane Co., No. 1111-02145, (Pa. Comm. Pls. Philadelphia Co., July 30, 2013) a Philadelphia jury recently found that the Plaintiff’s decedent, a heavy smoker, was 85% responsible for the lung cancer that caused his death, notwithstanding his alleged exposure to asbestos-containing gaskets on valves manufactured by defendant Crane Co.
Liptak alleged exposure to asbestos over a 20-year period during which he served as a machinist’s mate in the U.S. Navy. However, the evidence of his exposure to Crane Co.’s product was equivocal, and Crane offered counter-evidence suggesting that any exposure to its products was trivial or insignificant. The plaintiff did not offer testimony of any industrial hygienist to establish causation between his alleged asbestos exposure and lung cancer. The medical expert testimony that the plaintiff did offer did not persuasively establish that his lung cancer was caused by exposure to these products rather than due to hisown fault from smoking. Under Pennsylvania’s Comparative Negligence Act, 42 Pa. C.S.A. § 7102, if the plaintiff’s causal negligence is greater than 50%, the plaintiff cannot recover. As a result, the finding of 85% responsibility on the party of plaintiff’s decedent meant that Crane Co. was not liable for any damages.