S.S. Del Mar
The S.S. Del Mar was a cargo ship built by the Ingalls Shipbuilding Company in Pascagoula, Mississippi. Built in 1947 for the transport of troops and materiél, she was eventually sold to Delta Cruise Lines in 1950, and for the next twenty years made runs between New Orleans and Buenos Aires. Del Mar and her sister ships were scrapped in 1972.
Asbestos poisoning is a genuine hazard to anyone who sailed or worked aboard a sea-going vessel built prior to 1980. By that time, asbestos insulation had been used as a flame retardant for years, but asbestos insulation came into particularly heavy use after the Morro Castle tragedy of 1934, in which nearly 140 people aboard were killed. This disaster led to federal legislation requiring ship builders to use asbestos insulation through a vessel's construction.
The asbestos industry had been well aware of the health hazards of asbestos since the late 1930s. However, the major players – W.R. Grace, Johns-Manville, Raysbestos and others – engaged in a conspiracy to suppress this information and distort the facts in order to protect profitability. Because of this, when the U.S. government finally issued advisories to war plant and shipyard workers about the “possible” hazards of asbestos as well as the use of respirators and ventilation in closed areas, these recommendations were not generally followed or even taken seriously. This ignorance has led to many mesothelioma navy cases.
Finally, in 1977, documents came to light revealing the existence of the forty-year long conspiracy of silence. Prior to this, lawyers for the defense were able to argue that their clients had not known of asbestos hazards and therefore could not be held liable for workers' injuries.
Symptoms of asbestos such as mesothelioma do not appear until several years or even decades after initial exposure to asbestos in most cases. Diagnosis has historically been difficult, since symptoms of malignant mesothelioma are similar to those of other asbestos diseases. Proving that a specific asbestos product caused the disease is harder still. In order to succeed at asbestos litigation, it is necessary to have a solid diagnosis from a qualified oncologist and have thorough documentation of one's employment history. This should including vessels aboard which one worked, served or traveled and which asbestos-containing materials one was exposed to.
Asbestos litigation is a very involved process requiring a great deal of time and excellent research and investigative skills. Lawyers with experience in this area are most likely to succeed in winning such cases, as these people have access to decades worth of information regarding asbestos job sites, products and manufacturers.
Bowker, Michael. Fatal Deception: The Terrifying True Story of How Asbestos is Killing America. New York: Touchstone, 2003.
MareNostrum. “S.S. Del Mar.”