Asbestos fibers

A woman can go forward with her asbestos-based personal injury lawsuit against several companies that allegedly supplied products to the Westchester County Department of Laboratories and Research, where she worked in the 1970s.

An Appellate Division, Third Department, panel has ruled Eileen O’Connor, diagnosed in 2015 with pleural mesothelioma, can proceed against defendants Fisher Scientific Co., Thomas Scientific and VWR International. Other named defendants were not addressed in the opinion.

The ruling by Justice William McCarthy reversed the 2016 decision of Saratoga County Supreme Court Justice Richard Aulisi, who had granted the companies summary judgment.

McCarthy, joined by Justices Elizabeth Garry, Michael Lynch, Robert Rose and Eugene Devine, wrote in O’Connor v. Aerco International, 523122, that the companies bore the initial burden of demonstrating their products couldn’t have contributed to O’Connor’s injuries.

He noted that although no deponents could say whether defendants’ brand names, trademarks or logos were on products during the relevant time, O’Connor and other department employees testified there were products containing asbestos in the lab between 1975 and 1979 and that employees consulted defendants’ supply catalogs, among others, to place orders.

The three companies, McCarthy wrote, failed to establish that they didn’t sell asbestos-containing products to the department during the relevant time. Fisher Scientific, for instance, stated it didn’t have records of selling the products to the department.

Gennaro Savastano, a Weitz & Luxenberg associate, represented O’Connor and her husband and couldn’t be reached for comment.

Counsel for the companies also couldn’t be reached. The firms were Hinkhouse Williams Walsh in Chicago and Troutman Sanders for Fisher Scientific; Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin in Roseland, New Jersey, for Thomas Scientific; and Littleton Joyce Ughetta Park & Kelly in New York for VWR International.