The funeral of Harold St. John, a retired airline employee and former auto mechanic who died from mesothelioma caused by asbestos exposure, was interrupted at a New Jersey cemetery last week when, in a new moral low for defense tactics, a Chrysler official arrived with subpoena for his body.
The subpoena, which prevented the burial from taking place, was issued so that more tests could be performed to determine the cause of death. Before he died, 67-year-old St. John had sued Chrysler, along with Honeywell, claiming that the automobile brake linings he used to install in his father’s auto shop in the 50s and 60s had caused his illness.
The trial was set to begin March 9. Unexpectedly, St. John died on February 28. Though he had undergone a painful biopsy to provide a lung tissue sample while still living, Chrysler insisted on taking the body from its burial site before it could be laid to rest.
Mike Palesi, a spokesman for the car company, issued a statement from Detroit:
"Chrysler’s sympathies are with the St. John family for their loss. Unfortunately, this process is routine in such matters in order to preserve tissue needed to establish the cause of asbestos-related disease. Chrysler acted in a timely fashion, in accordance with directions from the New Jersey Court of Appeals, and in full knowledge of the family’s attorneys. Numerous epidemiological studies have, indeed, refuted the link between automotive products and asbestos-related disease." –WCBSTV
The wife and children of Harold St. John are furious over Chrysler’s machinations, and intend to fight the company’s demands for more tissue samples. They will voice their objections at a hearing in Newark on Monday, where hopefully, the court will not take kindly to the flagrant disrespect Chrysler has shown the grieving family.