Exclusive remedy provisions prove downfall for some asbestos victims

9 Jun 2017 by Sarah Mahan under Legal

Anthophyllite asbestos SEM 1 100x100 Exclusive remedy provisions prove downfall for some asbestos victimsA U.S. federal appeals court dismissed six asbestos exposure claims Tuesday for failure by the plaintiffs to sufficiently prove that their non-occupational asbestos exposure was a substantial contributor to their injuries.

According to Business Insurance, the six plaintiffs, who all worked for Wisconsin-based Weyerhaeuser at the time it was producing fire doors that contained asbestos, sued the original patentor of the fire doors, Owens- Inc. for their development of mesothelioma, a deadly cancer that affects the lining of internal organs, due to asbestos exposure. Owens- Inc. eventually sold the fire door design to a company acquired by Weyerhaeuser Co., where the plaintiffs worked.

However, in their suits, the plaintiffs contend their mesothelioma was contracted not through their jobs involving asbestos-containing materials, but through ambient asbestos in the surrounding community and in their homes. For example, one of the plaintiff “worked for 44 years cutting and drilling asbestos mineral cores but claimed his mesothelioma was caused by ambient asbestos in the surrounding community, court records show,” according to the news source.

Why did the plaintiffs make such a move? The exclusive remedy provision of the Wisconsin’s Worker’s Compensation Act prevents employees injured on the job from making a civil liability claim against their employers, effectively leaving workers compensation as the sole remedy for their injuries. The six plaintiffs’ suit for ambient asbestos exposure did not fall under the exclusive remedy provision.

Exclusive remedy provisions are seen by some asbestos advocates, mesothelioma victims and those that represent them as a way to place a lower cap on compensation for mesothelioma exposure than victims would otherwise receive if a civil suit was permitted to proceed.

 

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