An Arizona appeals court dealt a blow, this month, to people suffering from second-hand exposure to toxic substances, specifically harmful materials carried home on the clothing of workers.
The lawsuit was brought by the family of a man who died in 2014 of mesothelioma, a type of cancer most often associated with asbestos exposure. The twist was that the man never worked in an asbestos-ladened environment. The suit claimed the man was exposed as a boy by his father, who work at a Phoenix-area metal fabricating company and carried asbestos on his clothing, contaminating the family home, automobiles, and general surroundings.
Arizona Appeals Court judges unanimously rejected the contention that more than 50 years hence, the metals company should be held legally responsible for his death. The judges said opening the door to liability for third-party “take-home exposure” could create limitless lawsuits brought by by “people who came into contact with asbestos-tainted clothing in a taxicab, grocery store, dry cleaner, convenience store or laundromat.”
Naturally, attorneys for plaintiffs in such cases disagree and consider the “limitless liability” argument an attempt to evade responsibility.
“Everybody agrees that if you're spewing pollutants you're responsible for them. But defendants say that if the vehicle on which the pollutant leaves the factory is the workers' clothes then they're not liable. That doesn't make any sense,” said a Maryland-based attorney.
The Arizona decision is in line with other states, including Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas. However, courts in Louisiana, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Washington have allowed “take-home exposure” cases to move forward. California courts are split on the issue.
Asbestos is the name given to a group of minerals that occur naturally in the environment and because of that, everyone has been exposed to it, according to theNational Cancer Institute. Low levels of asbestos are present in the air, water and soil. Most people do not become ill from their exposure unless they are exposed to asbestos on a regular basis through a job.
For decades asbestos has been used widely in many industries and in products including cement and plastics; insulation, roofing and fireproofing; shipbuilding and the automotive industry. It has even been used in floor tiles, paint, garden products and crayons.
The United States government finally acknowledged the health risks associated with asbestos exposure and in the late 1970s, the Consumer Product Safety Commission -- and later the Environmental Protection Agency -- began banning it in newly manufactured products. Uses for asbestos developed before 1989, however, were still allowed.
When asbestos is broken up, it may create a toxic dust. If the dust is inhaled or swallowed, the asbestos fibers will settle in the lungs or in the stomach, where they can cause irritation that may lead to malignant mesothelioma, according to the Mayo Clinic. Mesothelioma most often affects the tissue that surrounds the lungs. It is an aggressive and deadly form of cancer, yet it can take 20 to 40 years or more to develop. While some people can be exposed to asbestos for years and never develop mesothelioma, others develop the cancer after very little exposure.
If you believe you or a loved one was exposed to asbestos and is suffering health effects from it, you may be entitled to compensation, despite the recent Arizona ruling. Call the offices of trial attorneys Charles Gilman and Briggs Bedigian at 800-529-6162 or contact them online. The firm handles cases in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.