Utah Supreme Court Decision in Mesothelioma Lawsuit Expands Premise Owner Liability

A recent decision by the Utah Supreme Court overturned a lower court’s grant of summary judgment in a mesothelioma lawsuit. In doing so, the court dramatically expanded premise owner liability for asbestos-related claims. The case involved the tragic death of a woman whose husband had worked in asbestos-contaminated worksites and unwittingly carried the deadly fiber into their home on his clothing.

Woman’s Mesothelioma Blamed on Second-hand Asbestos Exposure

According to the original mesothelioma claim filed by Larry Boynton, his wife Barbara died of malignant mesothelioma just one month after her diagnosis with the rare and aggressive cancer. Though she had never worked with or around the material, she had regularly laundered his work clothing, and he determined that he had been exposed to asbestos when working as a laborer and electrician at facilities controlled by ConocoPhillips, Kennecott Utah Copper LLC, and PacifiCorp. He filed premises liability claims against all three, arguing that they owed his wife a duty of care.

All three companies named in the mesothelioma lawsuit filed motions for summary judgment, arguing that they owed no duty to Mrs. Boynton or that they did not control the work of Mr. Boynton’s employer at their facility. Two of the three companies’ motions were granted, with the third denied due to factual disputes. Mr. Boynton appealed the lower court’s decision to the state’s supreme court.

Supreme Court Ruling in Mesothelioma Case Dramatically Expands Liability

In handing down its decision in the Boynton case, the Utah Supreme Court dramatically expanded liability potential involving take-home exposure to asbestos and mesothelioma claims. They explicitly stated that because risks associated with asbestos were foreseeable at the time of Mr. Boynton’s exposure and because the companies had chosen to use asbestos-containing materials, they had “launched the instrument of harm” and “engaged in misfeasance” against its workers. 

The court further ruled that it was “common sense” that asbestos would be carried home on clothing and that take-home asbestos injuries, including mesothelioma, were foreseeable, and that the premise owners should have taken affirmative actions to prevent this from happening. The court wrote that because of their failure to do so, they may be held liable for Mrs. Boynton’s injuries. The case will move forward to a jury.

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Paul Danziger

Paul Danziger

Writer

Paul Danziger grew up in Houston, Texas and earned a law degree from Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago. For over 25 years years he has focused on representing mesothelioma cancer victims and others hurt by asbestos exposure. Paul and his law firm have represented thousands of people diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer, recovering significant compensation for injured clients. Every client is extremely important to Paul and he will take every call from clients who want to speak with him. Paul and his law firm handle mesothelioma cases throughout the United States.

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