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Workers' comp deemed exclusive remedy in mesothelioma case

There is no question that mesothelioma is a serious medical condition. Sadly, many people who contract the disease do so as a result of conditions they encountered while working to make a living to support themselves and their families. It has impacted many people who in the course of their jobs were exposed to asbestos. Fortunately it may be possible for those impacted by the condition to recoup damages related to contracting the disease. 

While a civil personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit may be the first things that come to mind for people who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, or their families, there may be another option--workers' compensation. In some cases that may be the only remedy available.

The family of a man in another state who died before his case could be decided recently learned this firsthand. The man was exposed to asbestos over the course of four years he worked as a product tester and shipping clerk. Over 40 years after he left that job he was diagnosed with mesothelioma. Shortly after his diagnosis he sought damages and filed a lawsuit against his former employer. In it he alleged negligence. After the man died, his wife amended the complaint to include allegations of wrongful death.

In response to the complaint his former employer asserted that despite the 25-year time limit for occupational disease claims, workers' compensation was the exclusive remedy available to the man's family. A circuit court agreed and granted summary judgment in favor of the employer. In an appeal filed by the man's family, that decision was reversed based on the fact that he was not diagnosed until after the time limit for workers' comp had run and the employer appealed to that state's high court.

A decision was recently rendered on that matter. The court found that the time period in which the man discovered he was ill with mesothelioma did not matter and that workers' compensation was the only remedy available. In reaching that decision the court focused not on the amount of time that had passed before the man discovered his condition, but the fact that the condition arose out of something having to do with his job.

While this matter was decided in another state, the outcome could be relevant to individuals residing in North Carolina. Because cases of this nature are generally complex, those filing them would likely benefit from working with a lawyer.

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