HONOLULU - Three months before former Hawaii Supreme Court Justice Mario Ramil died, he sued over asbestos exposure in the state-owned Kamamalu building on the corner of King and Richards Streets.

Ramil worked in the basement offices as state insurance commissioner between 1984-1987.

The firm of Galiher, DeRobertis,Waxman representing Justice Ramil didn't go after the state, but did name more than a dozen manufacturers and companies.

But there an effort underway to hold the state liable for damages in the personal injury case.

"What is unusual here is that one of the defendants Bank of Hawaii is trying to bring in the state. They are bringing in the state on the basis of a contract they believe they have with the state where the state is supposed to reimburse them  if they are sued for personal injury from the Kamamalu, so it's an issue of contract law,"  said Richard DeRobertis,

Governor David Ige made the renovations of the Kamamalu building a priority of his administration as a way to reduce the need to lease downtown private offices.

The building, which is still being renovated is now believed to be "asbestos free."

The offices are expected to be fully occupied in late June or July.

 "The state did take action. For the most part asbestos is dangerous when its friable, or not contained. Clearly most of the time asbestos was not in a condition that was a health hazard, and the state was pretty aggressive in removing the asbestos in all state buildings," said Gov. David Ige.

In a video deposition taken just about two weeks before he died, Ramil described his exposure to asbestos dust that would cover his desk.

He said at the time he didn't realize it was unsafe.

Ramil, who died of lung cancer, also was exposed to asbestos when he was in the Navy and was also a heavy smoker for nearly 40 years. 

Trial is set for November, but DeRobertis said some of the companies named have already settled their claims.