Family of Navy Vet and Mesothelioma Patient Gets $1.2 Million

Newport News, VA – The family of a high-ranking Navy veteran who contracted mesothelioma while working on Navy ships has been awarded over $1 million dollars in damages.
Gerald Gray joined the Navy in 1951, worked on several ships during his military career, and eventually rose to the Navy’s second-highest enlisted rank of command master chief for the Atlantic fleet. He retired in 1971 and was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2008. Gray died in April 2009. Gray breathed in asbestos fibers during his work on the military vessels. Asbestos was heavily used for various parts on ships and submarines, in gaskets, seals, pumps, and other boiler room applications, because of its extreme ability to resist heat, fire, salt water, and other biological processes. It was considered so useful that its use was actually mandated by the military for a period of time. Additionally, asbestos can be woven into fabric and combined with other building materials such as cement, so it was also commonly integrated into shore-based structures such as barracks and offices, making it nearly inescapable for any veteran who served between the Second World War and the 1980s. There were initially five defendants in the case, but four of them settled out of court. The jury was not told of the out-of-court settlements before deliberating, however, so they were allowed to assign a percentage of blame to each of the parties. The Illinois-based manufacturer John Crane, Inc., which made gaskets and other parts used on the Navy ships, was assigned 30 percent of the blame for the damages, which translated into the $1.2 million figure. Mesothelioma, a rare but deadly cancer, is linked exclusively to asbestos exposure. It typically affects the lining of the chest cavity and lungs, but can also affect the outer lining of other organs such as the heart, stomach and liver. Mesothelioma has an extremely long period of latency in some cases it can be as long as 50 years between the person’s initial exposure to asbestos and the diagnosis of the disease. At that point, the cancer has generally progressed to late stages, which makes it more difficult to treat. Currently, there is no known cure for mesothelioma, and treatment is most often performed for palliative reasons rather than to try to eradicate the cancer altogether.