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Companies Can Be Held Liable When Asbestos Dust Sickens Workers' Families

The California Supreme Court unanimously voted on Thursday, December 1 that companies can be held liable when people get sick from asbestos dust brought home from a job site.

Following this ruling, people who contracted mesothelioma from asbestos fibers brought home on the clothing of people who worked on job sites where asbestos was present may now move forward with their lawsuits. In the court’s decision, Justice Goodwin Liu wrote that “[e]mployers have a duty to take reasonable care” to ensure that their employees don’t bring asbestos home with them. It’s important to note that this ruling only applies to people who live in the same household as the worker.

“To be sure, there are other persons who may have reason to believe they were exposed to significant quantities of asbestos by repeatedly spending time in an enclosed space with an asbestos worker — for example, a regular carpool companion,” wrote Liu. He went on to say that litigation would be limited, but would protect “an identifiable category of people … most likely to have suffered a legitimate, compensable harm.”

Asbestos was used in construction projects across the United States well into the 1980s, decades after manufacturers first became aware of the mineral’s cancerous side effects. Despite our ever-growing knowledge about the dangers of mesothelioma, thousands of people remain at risk of exposure to asbestos every year though renovation projects, unsafe working conditions, etc.

The Court’s ruling came in response to two different lawsuits.

The first involved Johnny Blaine Kesner Jr., who died in 2014 after being diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma in February of 2011. He filed a lawsuit against Pneumo Abex LLC, the company that owned a brake manufacturing plant where his uncle worked.

According to Kesner, he stayed at his uncle’s house at least three times a week between 1973 and 1979. His uncle stated that the two would periodically sleep in close proximity to each other or roughhouse while he was still wearing his work clothes.

The second involved Lynne Haver, who died in April of 2009 after being diagnosed with mesothelioma in March of 2008. The lawsuit, filed by Haver’s children, alleged that their mother was exposed to asbestos brought home on the clothing of her former husband.

He worked at Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, which later became BNSF Railway Co., from July of 1972 to 1974. According to the lawsuit, the asbestos came from products including pipe insulation.

This ruling is expected to pave the way for similar lawsuits in other states across the country, allowing family members to finally seek the compensation they deserve after years of being barred from doing so. Asbestos exposure is a serious and deadly issue thousands of Americans face every year, and our mesothelioma attorneys at Bailey Cowan Heckaman PLLC have dedicated their careers to ensuring that those people and companies who needlessly expose others to asbestos are held legally and financially responsible. If you or someone you love was recently diagnosed with mesothelioma, give us a call to speak with a member of our firm, or fill out our online form to start out with a free case consultation.

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