Argentinean Asbestos Lawsuit in the U.S.
Former workers from a DuPont Company factory in Mercedes, Argentina are suing the company in Delaware for negligent asbestos exposures which are alleged to have taken place in Argentina; the litigants, all of whom contracted asbestos cancer or asbestosis, say they were occupationally exposed to asbestos pipe insulation.1 The U.S. lawyer representing plaintiffs Juan Carlos Laborda (68), Ceferino Ramirez (76) and Cristian Dematei (35) accuses the American-owned multinational of having double standards, as asbestos was eliminated in the 1970s from the company's nylon factory in Delaware, but was left in place at the Mercedes worksite until it was sold in 2004. Lawyer Thomas Crumplar expects to file suits arising from similar exposures on behalf of other workers and/or widows of workers.2
The lawsuit is being brought under the terms of an 1853 treaty signed by President Franklin Pierce; Article VIII of the Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation between Argentina and the United States promised:
free and open access to the courts of justice in the said countries respectively, for the prosecution and defense of their just rights, and they shall be at liberty to employ in all cases such advocates, attorneys or agents as they may think proper; and they shall enjoy, in this respect, the same rights and privileges therein as native citizens.3
In November 2008 and May 2009, this treaty was invoked by claimants from Argentina; although both cases have, to date, not succeeded, neither the district judges nor the appeal court closed the door to Argentinean litigation. Justice Richard Posner of the Seventh District Appeals Court wrote:
Even without the treaty, we would agree that a foreign plaintiff has the same rights in an American court as an American citizen has...It should make no difference that the plaintiffs are Argentines rather than Alaskans.
August 14, 2009
1 The plaintiffs worked at the Mercedes factory during various period between 1961-2002.
2 Chase R. Former Argentina Plant Workers Sue DuPont. June 24, 2009.