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Court: Boeing had no 'actual knowledge' of asbestos hazards

There is no longer any doubt that asbestos is a dangerous fiber and has been directly linked to causing cancer. However, for decades, companies were able to get away with claiming ignorance about the toxicity of asbestos and ended up putting many workers in danger. Now 10, 20 or even 50 years later, victims of exposure to asbestos are beginning to show symptoms of mesothelioma, asbestosis and other illnesses caused by inhalation of asbestos.

Unfortunately, some of these companies still refute their role in past years of exposing workers to asbestos on the job. Many of these workers will be eligible to collect workers' compensation benefits for a work-related illness, but victims may also choose to pursue additional compensation from a negligent company.

One man filed a lawsuit against airplane manufacturing company Boeing after he was diagnosed with mesothelioma. He filed it 25 years after he was exposed to flakes of asbestos dust in the hammer shop where he worked for the company. The victim stated that the company had been repairing pipe insulation on the floor above him. Maintenance workers were equipped with protective suits while they worked with the pipes, but those who ended up being covered in asbestos flakes on the floor beneath the pipe work received no such protection.

The man claims that Boeing certainly must have had actual knowledge of the dangers associated with asbestos since the maintenance workers were properly protected. Workers were told not to work directly under the repair work so that they would be less exposed to the falling dust and debris. Further, three workers had filed workers' compensation claims after developing asbestos-related injuries.

Initially, a county judge denied the company's request for a summary judgment, but that ruling was later reversed by an appeals court. The court recently ruled that the man failed to prove that Boeing knew that asbestos exposure was certain to cause injury to employees at that time.

Companies and employers will often do whatever they can to avoid taking responsibility for negligently exposing workers to asbestos. It is true that holding a negligent employer responsible for asbestos-related illnesses can be a complicated and complex process. But each case is different and each victim suffers differently. One thing is for sure, though. Those who are affected by asbestos exposure have the right to pursue compensation from a negligent party.

Source: Courthouse News Service, "Boeing Gets Off Despite Asbestos 'Moon Suits'," June Williams, Jan. 30, 2013

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