Virginia Supreme Court says employers can be liable for secondary asbestos exposure

23 Oct 2018 by under Legal

clothing on clothes line washing laundry 100x100 Virginia Supreme Court says employers can be liable for secondary asbestos exposureWhen Wanda Quisenberry was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer caused by exposure, she sued several companies she claimed exposed her to the cancer-causing mineral, including Inc., a company that employed her father.

Bennie Plessinger was a pipe fitter for Huntington Ingalls, the country’s largest military shipbuilding company, from 1950 to 1955 and again from 1960 to 1969. While employed with the company, Bennie worked in asbestos dust that clung to his clothing and he unknowingly carried the dangerous fibers home, exposing Wanda.

Asbestos is a mineral that was widely used in construction and shipbuilding materials due to it durability and fire resistance. Its use was restricted in the 1980s due to its carcinogenic properties. For decades, it was known that asbestos exposure could cause mesothelioma, a rare but deadly form of cancer that develops in the lining of the lungs, abdomen or chest.

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia certified a question to the Virginia Supreme Court over whether a company could be held liable for secondary asbestos exposure, such as that caused when a worker unknowingly brings asbestos home on his clothing, exposing the worker’s family members. The state’s High Court said in a 4-3 response that companies can be liable for take-home asbestos exposure.

“The artificial hazard created by the shipyard – asbestos dust – was allegedly released through the shipyard’s course of conduct and moved to place Wanda in danger,” the majority said. “The nature of the hazard allegedly created by the shipyard’s conduct was that the asbestos fibers, the inhalation of which could cause mesothelioma, regularly accumulated on the clothes of workers during the day and were released again when those workers returned home and had their clothes washed, thus placing Wanda and others similarly situated within reach of the shipyard’s conduct and within the ‘zone of danger.’ This created a ‘recognizable risk of harm’ to those sharing living quarters with the workers, resulting in a duty of ordinary care to that class of persons.”

Source: Lexis Legal News

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