Cumulative exposure urged as cause of asbestos-related death

Two critical elements in any case seeking recovery for a death caused by mesothelioma or other asbestos-related disease are (a) proof that the decedent was exposed to asbestos fibers and (b) proof that the fibers were a substantial factor in causing the disease to develop. In a case that could have a significant impact in North Carolina, the Pennsylvania supreme court is being urged to accept the ory that the cumulative effect of repeated exposure to asbestos is sufficient to meet the plaintiff’s burden of proof on the issue of causation.

The plaintiff was employed by the Ford Motor Company for three months in 1950 as an assistant in the garage at a Ford dealership. In this job, the plaintiff alleged that he was exposed to asbestos from brake pads and that this exposure caused him to develop mesothelioma, a fatal strain of lung cancer that is caused almost exclusively by exposure to asbestos fibers. The jury awarded the plaintiff and his wife $1,000,000 in damages when the case was tried. The intermediate appellate court upheld the award, and the defendant appealed to the state supreme court.

The defendant relied heavily on an earlier decision by the Pennsylvania supreme court holding that “any exposure” to asbestos could not satisfy the “substantial factor” causation test. In response, plaintiffs offered the expert testimony of a physician who testified that the jury must take into account the totality of plaintiff’s exposure to asbestos, rather than considering any individual exposure caused him to contract mesothelioma.

If the court affirms the jury’s verdict, the ory of cumulative exposure will provide a powerful assist to potential plaintiffs who remember episodes of asbestos exposure but cannot pinpoint the exact times or amounts of exposure. Any person who believes that he or she has been exposed to asbestos fibers should be examined by a physician experienced in diagnosing and treating asbestos-related diseases. If a positive diagnosis for mesothelioma or asbestosis is received, such a person may want to consult with an attorney who is experienced in handling such claims for an evaluation of the case and an estimate of the chances of succeeding in a lawsuit.

Source: Law 360, “Pa. Justices Urged To OK Repeated Asbestos Exposure Theory,” Matt Fair, April 7, 2015Post Type: Event Based