The government contractor defense was accepted in a recent asbestos liability lawsuits out of California. The decision by a state appellate court breaks with a ruling by the federal Ninth Circuit.
The government contractor defense shields the federal government’s exercise of discretion and judgment in contract specifications and designs. It can be raised by government contractor defendants in certain product liability lawsuits, such as those pertaining to asbestos exposure. It’s often used by companies that provide products that have some type of military application, though matters can get complicated when the product in question is sold to both the government and the general public.
The California case involves a man who was exposed to asbestos insulation while working on nuclear submarines in the early 1970s. The insulation product was called Unibestos, and it’s been available for decades. In 1936, the U.S. Navy started using the product in its vessels because of its high resistance to heat. Although ads for the product indicated it was “available everywhere,” there is no evidence as to how much of the product was sold commercially. Continue reading