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Fri., Apr. 18
Serving the communities of Massena and Potsdam, New York
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Former Reynolds Metals employee filed multi-million dollar asbestos lawsuit

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MALONE - A Moira resident and former Reynolds Metals Company has filed a lawsuit in Franklin County Supreme Court seeking millions of dollars in damages and compensation he and his wife suffered from as the result of asbestos exposure.

Kermit Wells is claiming six separate causes of action for $10 million in punitive and $10 million in compensatory damages because of asbestos exposure suffered by himself and his wife, Mary. Mary Wells died in December 2011, a little more than three months after she received a lung cancer diagnosis, according to the court documents.

According to an initial fact sheet filed with the court, Mr. Wells worked as a tapper at Reynolds Metal Company in Massena from 1965 to 1996, and his wife experienced secondary exposure to asbestos fibers through laundering her husband’s clothing. She also experienced exposure when the couple renovated their home between 1980 to 1985.

Mr. Wells is suing several companies for negligence, claiming that ingestion of asbestos was “unavoidable” due to “defective” or “negligently designed” products. The complaint also states that there were no adequate warnings on the products about the danger of asbestos, despite the companies possessing “medical and scientific data which clearly indicates that their asbestos-containing products are hazardous to health” since the early 1900s.

He follows the negligence claims with breach of warrantee claims, saying the materials that may have caused his wife’s lung cancer were advertised as fit for intended use. The failure to warn clause reiterates a lack of instructions on safety precautions or information regarding the danger of asbestos.

A fungible products section of the complaint states that the defendants are named in the suit because their products are similar, and they “represent a substantial share of asbestos-containing product market within the area in which (Mr. Wells) was employed.”

According to a New Jersey manual for asbestos cases approved by the New Jersey Judicial Council, asbestos cases against numerous defendants are not uncommon because often a plaintiff will sue all possible sources of the asbestos-related disease. These diseases typically take 20 to 40 years to manifest, and as such a direct link often cannot be made between the sickness and one product or company.

Further examples of this can be found in the verified complaint where asbestos-containing products are listed as “including but not limited to joint compound, tiles, roofing, siding, shingle, tape, caulk, HVAC, and sealants” in the Wells home and “pumps, valves, boilers, packing, gaskets, insulation, turbines, joint compound, pipe, paint, HVAC equipment, and raw asbestos” in Kermit Wells’ former workplace.

Because of possible asbestos exposure at his workplace, Mr. Wells is also suing the companies for unsafe workplace, claiming they “negligently created a hazardous environment.”

Finally, he is suing for the loss of the love and companionshi, of his late wife as a result of her asbestos-related disease.

The official fact sheet states that Mrs. Wells smoked “approximately one pack of cigarettes per day from 1961 to 2011.”

The nine companies named in the verified complaint for personal injuries includes Borgwarner Morse Tec, In.; Charles A. Wagner Co., Inc; Georgia Pacific, LLC; Honeywell International, Inc./Alliedsignal Inc./The Bendix Corporation; Ingersoll-Rand Company; John Crane, Inc.; Trane US, Inc.; Union Carbide Corporation; and Whittaker, Clark & Daniels, Inc.

Mr. Wells’s attorney, Kardon Stolzman of the New York City law firm of Napoli Bern Ripka Shkolnik, LLP, did not return requests for comment.

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