In February of 2017, Vickie Williams died of malignant mesothelioma while in the midst of a lawsuit charging Schneider Electric USA with responsibility for her death. Schneider had previously been known as Square D Company, and had been her father’s employer for several years, as well as her part-time employer for a few months when she was a teen. Though her claim blamed her illness on asbestos brought into her childhood home on her father’s work clothes, the company insisted that her part-time job forced her case into a workers’ compensation claim. The trial court denied the company’s motion for summary judgment and the court of appeals agreed.
Second-Hand Exposure from Father Blamed for Woman’s Mesothelioma
The malignant mesothelioma that claimed Ms. Williams’ life at the age of 55 is a rare, fatal form of cancer that is caused by exposure to asbestos. Ms. Williams’ lawsuit, which was filed as an unverified complaint in May of 2016, rested entirely on her second-hand exposure to the asbestos dust that was carried into her childhood home on her father’s work clothes, hair and skin.
When the company moved to have the case dismissed, they hoped that they would be able to leverage her part-time job to force the case into workers’ compensation court, where the compensation levels would likely be significantly lower than if the case was heard as a negligence case by a jury.
Court Finds No Evidence That Mesothelioma Was Caused by Part-Time Employment
While most mesothelioma defendants argue that there is no asbestos in their environment, Square D found itself in the unusual legal position of arguing that their workplace was contaminated enough with the carcinogen that it sickened Ms. Williams during the three months that she worked there as a teen.
In reviewing their position, the court found that their argument did not hold up, and that though she had acknowledged having worked for the company in her deposition testimony, there had been no evidence submitted that referenced asbestos. This lack of judicial admission failed to reach the level of anything but anticipated testimony, and therefore could not be used against her. The asbestos company’s motion for summary judgment was denied and the case has moved on to either be heard by a jury or for settlement negotiations.