Autopsy for Asbestos Case Interrupted Burial of New Jersey Man

The body of a mesothelioma victim, Harold St. John, was refused burial by a New Jersey judge due to the request for an autopsy posed by the defense team in the asbestos case filed two days before St. John died.

While the Superior Court in New Brunswick decided the fate of St. John’s body, his family only desired to give him a decent burial.
The autopsy stemmed from a lawsuit filed by St. John against a dozen parts manufacturers he claimed made and sold products that contained dangerous amounts of asbestos that caused his mesothelioma. During the 1950s and 1960s, St. John worked as a mechanic at his family’s auto repair shop. That was when he was exposed to asbestos from the parts made by the defendants. Half of the companies settled with the St. John family, but there were six holdouts: Chrysler Motor Corp., Honeywell International, Carlisle Companies Inc., Bosch Braking System, Maremont Corp., Standard Motor Products, and National Gasket.

These six remaining companies did not want to settle with the family, and they sought an autopsy of St. John’s body to determine if he died of his mesothelioma and if it was caused by asbestos exposure. The first judge to whom the defendants brought their request denied it, but an appeal was filed, and that appeal was sent to the Superior Court for a decision. Pending the ruling by the Superior Court, Harold St. John’s body was refused burial in case his body might have to undergo an autopsy.

The lawyer for the St. John family, Moshe Maimon, claimed that an autopsy was unnecessary since tissue samples had already been taken shortly after St. John’s diagnosis of mesothelioma in early 2008.

The delay has cause emotional strife for the St. John family, including Harold’s widow, Diane, who said, “My children are going to live with this day in and day out. [The defendants] did something so awful.”