NEW ORLEANS — A lawsuit brought by a man who claims that he was exposed to asbestos while working at a shipyard is heading back to Orleans Parish District Court, according to a decision filed on May 4 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

U.S. District Judge Kurt D. Engelhardt issued the decision.

The case revolves around James A. Latiolais, who filed suit Orleans Parish District Court against several entities, including Avondale Shipyards, which is known now as Huntington Ingalls Inc., in September. Latiolais claims that he developed mesothelioma due to being exposed to asbestos while working on the USS Tappahannock.

Latiolais further alleges that Avondale Shipyards failed to protect him or warn him about the dangers of asbestos, according to the court’s decision.

Since then, the case has been thrust into a tug of war between venues. 

In October, Avondale Shipyards successfully removed the case to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, arguing that federal jurisdiction was warranted because its conduct was directed by the U.S. government. Latiolais later filed a motion to move the case back to Orleans Parish District Court.

Engelhardt, for his part, noted in the decision that negligent supervision and failure-to-warn claims typically have not been deemed to be “casually connected to Navy specifications requiring the use of asbestos.”

“Based on the evidence produced by both parties, there is nothing to suggest that the Navy, in its official authority, issued any orders, specifications or directives relating to safety procedures,” he wrote in the decision. “In fact, prior statements from Avondale representatives have confirmed that U.S. government inspectors ‘neither monitored nor enforced safety regulations,’ and that ‘on-the-job safety during the construction of vessels from the United States government was the responsibility of Avondale Shipyards’ safety department.’”

Consequently, Engelhardt found that there was no federal jurisdiction over the case and sent it back to Orleans Parish District Court.

 “Avondale has not shown that the United States government exercised any control over its safety practices—the alleged cause of [the] plaintiff’s injuries,” he wrote in the decision.

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