Over 300 different asbestos-containing products were utilized by the Navy during World War II. Asbestos was so popular that the Navy mandated its use in new naval vessels in 1939. What the Navy didn't realize is that asbestos is a toxic substance that can lead to the formation of a deadly cancer known as mesothelioma. This means our brave men and women who served in uniform during this era were heavily exposed to these hazardous chemicals.
Engine rooms, boiler rooms, sleeping quarters, and numerous other areas on a naval ship were contaminated with asbestos. Furthermore, many of these locations were small and not ventilated well. This could help explain why close to 30 percent of all mesothelioma cases diagnosed each year involve Navy veterans who were exposed during their service in the military.
The issue of mesothelioma and Navy veterans is an important issue in Hampton Roads considering its home to the largest naval base in the country. Hundreds, if not thousands, of Navy veterans reside in Norfolk, Portsmouth, Newport News, and other cities in the "757" area.
Unfortunately, the brave men and women who served our country during war time cannot file a claim against the Navy after being diagnosed with mesothelioma. All branches of the military are protected under what's known as the "Feres Doctrine." This doctrine is a collection of a Supreme Court cases from the 1950s which excludes the military from facing civil litigation claims.
"I consider the Feres Doctrine to be one of the most grotesque rules created in the history of this republic," said Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University. "It has done untold damage to thousands of military personnel and their families."
So does this mean military men and women are just left out in the cold with no legal recourse if they contract mesothelioma or another asbestos cancer? Not necessarily. If it can be proven the individual was exposed to asbestos from the parts manufactured by a third party or independent contractor, it may possible to file a claim, but a qualified injury attorney must analyze all the exposure history information, and have familiarity with the private companies that supplied asbestos containing materials.
This is why if you, or a loved one, served in the Navy and are battling mesothelioma cancer, you need to speak with an experienced attorney to discuss your potential claim.