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How Quality Historical Research Can Support a Legal Case

Johnston Pump Company PumpLike many companies with a long manufacturing history, TKD, Inc. recently faced a potentially costly, but poorly documented, asbestos claim in California state court. In this research project, History Associates environmental historians helped settle the case.

The plaintiff in this case alleged that he was exposed to asbestos while repairing pumps manufactured by Johnston Pump Company (the former name of TKD) on specific U.S. Navy vessels. Outside counsel for TKD suspected that the plaintiff was confusing Johnston Pump Company with another pump manufacturer, Johnson Motors Corporation – a separate entity with no connection to TKD.

To prove that there was no connection between the pumps on the Navy vessels and Johnston Pump Company, counsel needed unassailable historical evidence, and he needed that evidence for a trial scheduled to begin in less than a month.

The challenge of proving a negative (i.e., that pumps from Johnston Pump Company were not on the Navy vessels) required expert contextual knowledge of where the evidence should be, a systematic and thorough search of those sources, and a well-documented presentation of findings.

With experience piecing together information on alleged asbestos-containing components of Navy vessels, documenting corporate genealogies, presenting evidence as expert historians, and meeting the tight deadlines often required by attorneys, History Associates proved up to the task.

A team of History Associates historians immediately commenced research at the National Archives reviewing thousands of pages of Navy records and locating several references to “Johnson” pumps on the relevant vessels, but no references to “Johnston” pumps. Then, less than three weeks after beginning the engagement, a History Associates historian was deposed regarding the team’s research findings and methodology.

The following week, the historian submitted a sworn affidavit supporting his expert historical opinion that Johnston Pump Company did not manufacture pumps for use on the specific Navy vessels in question, but that Johnson Motors Corporation did.

In court, History Associates’ affidavit was the centerpiece of TKD’s motion to dismiss the case. After reviewing the affidavit, the judge asked the plaintiff’s counsel if he could rebut History Associates’ findings. He could not, and the case was quickly settled, saving TKD many thousands of dollars.

To confidentially discuss how historical research could help your case, call us at (301) 279-9697 or contact History Associates.

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