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In defending silicosis claim lawsuits, defendants must try to demonstrate the knowledge and sophistication of the plaintiff. This can be challenging, however, when the plaintiff disclaims knowledge or claims reliance on specific information from his or her employer or suppliers. The “sophisticated user” defense generally focuses on the knowledge and sophistication of the employer as a corporate entity regarding the industry as a whole and the product or product’s inherent hazards specifically.

There are good reasons to focus on several levels within the company. Co-workers of the plaintiff are likely to be less knowledgeable and sophisticated than people higher in the corporation, but securing admissions that people similarly situated to the plaintiff were aware of hazards will help undermine the credibility of a plaintiff who is feigning ignorance. Developing the knowledge and sophistication of the corporate employer, however, usually requires deposing people in management.

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