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Appeals court: Second-hand asbestos exposure case reinstated

There are many victims of asbestos-related illnesses who never had any direct contact with the toxic fiber. They never worked in an industrial plant, on a military ship or on construction sites where asbestos was often found in the air and on work materials. These victims are often the family members of a worker who did work in these environments and came home covered in asbestos particles. People inside the home were then at risk of suffering second-hand exposure to asbestos.

Inhaling asbestos can cause devastating illnesses, including peritoneal mesothelioma. This is the illness that one man was diagnosed with after spending several days and nights every week as a child at his uncle's home. His uncle was an employee at a brake manufacturing company. Automotive brakes were often made with asbestos and workers in these plants were often covered in asbestos dust at the end of a work day. That was the case for this one man's uncle, and now the nephew is taking action against the brake company.

Initially, the man's lawsuit was dismissed, as a judge ruled that the company was not responsible for protecting family members of their workers from asbestos exposure. However, the case was appealed and the state appeals court is allowing the man's case to continue on the basis that it is reasonable to expect employers to protect members of a worker's household from asbestos because they are likely to also come into regular contact with the particles.

According to the man's lawsuit, his uncle's company knew about the dangers associated with second-hand asbestos exposure but did not go far enough to warn workers about the risks that the fiber posed not only to them, but also to their family members. In fact, the company allegedly had brochures that specifically addressed the issue of why it can be dangerous to bring work clothes back home, but the brochures were never passed out to workers.

The ruling in favor of the victim is a good sign, but there are still challenges that will likely come up as the brake company is planning to appeal. These cases can be complicated and overwhelming, but they can be crucial for victims and their families because they can result in significant compensation. An experienced attorney can guide people through the filing, appeals and litigation process and work to secure a favorable outcome.

Source: SFGate, "Court says asbestos company can be responsible for relative's cancer," Bob Egelko, May 16, 2014

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