California Companies May Be Liable For Second-Hand Asbestos Illnesses

A new ruling by the California Supreme Court mandates that companies that used asbestos materials at job sites, will remain liable for any family member of a worker who develops an illness dues to second-hand asbestos exposure.

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The Los Angeles Times reports that in an unanimous decision last Thursday, the California Supreme Court decided that if anyone in the family home develops an asbestos-related disease due to a job site, the company the must pay. Goodwin Liu, an an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of California, wrote that employers have to take “reasonable care” to ensure workers aren’t bringing home asbestos, which can affect anyone in the household.

“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,” Liu wrote.

Even though it’s been over 20 years since asbestos was phased out of the majority of job sites in the U.S., the lawsuits don’t seem to be slowing down, and may likely pick up steam. This is due to the long latency period of asbestos-related illnesses, such as malignant mesothelioma and asbestosis. For instance, it may have been decades since someone came into contact with asbestos, but it could take up to 50 years before a diagnosis is made. Symptoms can lie hidden for years and years, making a diagnosis difficult.

Examples of Second-Hand Asbestos Exposure Lawsuits

The following lawsuits helped bring about the California Superior Court’s decision to hold companies liable for second-hand asbestos diseases:

In 2008,  Lynne Haver was diagnosed with mesothelioma. She died a year later. Her children filed a lawsuit against their father’s former company, Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, where he worked from 1972 to 1974. Part of his job included working with and around asbestos-containing pipes and other product. The lawsuit alleged that Haver developed mesothelioma after her husband came home daily with asbestos fibers embedded in his hair, skin, and on his clothes.

Johnny Blaine Kesner Jr. was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2011. In 2014, at the age of 53, his passed away due to complications of the disease. Prior to his death, he filed a lawsuit against Pneumo Abex LLC, a Virginia-based brake manufacturing company where his uncle once worked. For several years during the 1970s, Kesner spent around three nights per week at his uncle’s house, where he came into contact with asbestos via his uncle’s clothing.

Dangers of Second-Hand Asbestos Exposure

Second-hand asbestos exposure can affect people the same way as if they worked around asbestos themselves. When asbestos fibers are transferred from one person to another, the microscopic, odorless fibers are inhaled and become lodged in the body. While some fibers are excreted through sneezing and other bodily functions, it’s impossible to rid the body of all of the tiny fibers.

Asbestos fibers attach to the linings of major organs, and over time, can damage the system and create cancerous tumors. The tumors can result in severe, life-threatening asbestos diseases, none of which are curable (at present). Had employers provided showers and locker rooms for workers to change clothes in, most of the second-hand asbestos exposure cases likely wouldn’t have happened. Instead, spouses and children were needlessly put at risk when it could have been easily prevented.

The new ruling will likely spur additional second-hand asbestos lawsuits in California.

Additional Help and Resources for Asbestos Victims

If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer, or asbestosis, you may be eligible for substantial compensation. Fill out our form to receive our free Financial Compensation Packet. Our packet is loaded with information on leading mesothelioma attorneys in your area, how to file a claim for asbestos trust funds, how to get paid in 90 days, and more. 

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