California families can now sue over secondhand asbestos exposure, mesothelioma

7 Dec 2016 by under News

CA SC seal 100x100 California families can now sue over secondhand asbestos exposure, mesotheliomaIn the state of California, family members can now more easily sue loved ones’ employers for their own, secondhand exposure leading to the development of mesothelioma. Last week the ruled to allow lawsuits against employers filed on behalf of family members who have contracted an asbestos-related disease secondhand from a relative.

The ruling “ended a legal bar on lawsuits from people exposed outside a workplace,” Ted W. Pelletier, an attorney in one of the cases that led to the supreme court decision, said to the Los Angeles Times.

The ruling stemmed from two separate lawsuits claiming take-home exposure, when a worker transfers asbestos fibers from work to his home through his clothing, tools, vehicle, etc., was the cause of the two plaintiffs’ mesothelioma diagnoses.

One case alleged Johnny Blaine Kesner Jr. contracted peritoneal mesothelioma, a cancer that attacks the linking of the stomach, while spending three nights a week as a child with his uncle, who worked at break shoe manufacturer Abex, according to court documents. Kesner died in December 2014 from his illness.

In the other case, Lynne Haver’s children filed a wrongful death suit claiming she contracted mesothelioma, which most commonly affects the lining of the lungs, after being exposed to asbestos through take-home exposure from her former husband. Her husband worked two years for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, which is now BNSF Railway Company, in the mid-1970s and encountered asbestos in pipe insulation through his position as a fireman and hostler, court documents explain.

The Supreme Court consolidated the cases for review.

“Our task is to determine whether household exposure is categorically unforeseeable and, if not, whether allowing the possibility of liability would result in such significant social burdens that the law should not recognize such claims,” Justice Goodwin Liu wrote for the majority.

The court found,  “Businesses making use of asbestos were well positioned, relative to their workers, to undertake preventive measures, and Abex and BNSF cite no evidence to suggest such measures would have been unreasonably costly….Accordingly, we hold defendants owed the members of their employees‘ households a duty of ordinary care to prevent take-home exposure and that this duty extends no further,” meaning the ruling only applies to family members.

Others who may have been exposed, such as someone with whom an employee regularly carpooled, were not included in order to negate the “mass of litigation” that could be filed if the scope of the ruling were broadened.



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