Burke: The Challenges and Responsibility of Representing Veterans

RPWB member Beth Burke led a continuing legal education session on representing veterans and military personnel at the Southern Trial Lawyers Association Annual Fall Conference in Louisville on Sept. 17.

The topic was especially important to Burke, who grew up not far from Charleston. Southern states produce 44 percent of our nation’s troops. Charleston is home to Joint Base Charleston and South Carolina is home to major military installations including Parris Island and Fort Jackson.

Burke is in the leadership of the national mass tort against 3M for supplying our nation’s military personnel with faulty earplugs from 2003 to 2015. The mass tort now includes more than 250,000 veterans and active military personnel from every branch who suffer from hearing loss and tinnitus. RPWB represents over 1,100 of those service members.

Her presentation focused on how representing service members and veterans is important, yet challenging given the nature of their jobs as well as federal case law that limits some civil avenues for justice.

“I always like to raise my hand to present at continuing legal education sessions, but this one felt extra important to me due it being so close to the 20th anniversary of 9-11 and the fact that our veterans have sacrificed so much for our nation,” Burke said. “I hope my presentation will help the lawyers in the room understand both the privilege and added responsibility of serving these heroes.”


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    Supreme Court ruling will help asbestos victims

    By Dave Butler

    The United States Supreme Court delivered an unexpectedly good opinion for asbestos victims last week.

    For years, equipment makers (including those who make pumps, valves, turbines and boilers) have argued that they only make and sell metal products and cannot be held responsible for asbestos products made by third parties and later applied to their equipment (e.g. gaskets, insulation, etc.). This argument is known as the bare metal defense. As an asbestos attorney, this argument is particularly maddening because these companies know that the equipment they manufactured required asbestos to operate properly.

    However, in Air & Liquid Systems Corp. et al v. Devries, the Supreme Court ruled that in a maritime tort context, a product manufacturer has a duty to warn when:

    • its product requires the incorporation of a part,
    • the manufacturer knows or has reason to know that the integrated product is likely to be dangerous for its intended uses, and
    • the manufacturer has no reason to believe that the product’s users will realize that danger.

    The opinion – written by Justice Brett Kavanaugh along with Justices Roberts, Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan – will particularly help Navy veterans and others who developed mesothelioma as a result of asbestos exposure at sea. We also suspect the opinion may carry some weight on dry land as well.

    To read the full opinion click here.

    Dave Butler, who has worked as an asbestos attorney since 1993, helps people diagnosed with mesothelioma throughout the United States. For more information about our asbestos and mesothelioma work, please click here or fill out the contact form on this page.

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