Mesothelioma victim triumphs on appeal

A recent post on this blog explored the topic of take home liability for illnesses caused by exposure to asbestos-containing products. Take home liability refers to claims for asbestos product exposure made by persons who were exposed to asbestos fibers when they laundered or otherwise handled the clothes of the person who worked in the vicinity of airborne asbestos fibers. A recent state court decision clarified the law of take home liability that may help asbestos exposure victims in North Carolina and other states.

The Georgia Supreme Court reinstated a lawsuit by the daughter of a man who worked for the city water department for 35 years; one of his job duties was cutting water pipes manufactured by CertainTeed Corp. Starting when she was eight years old, the daughter laundered her father’s clothes. When she shook them out, she noticed a fine gray dust that became airborne during the shaking. As an adult, the daughter contracted pleural mesothelioma, a lethal lung disease caused almost exclusively by exposure to airborne asbestos fibers. After her diagnosis, the daughter brought a product liability lawsuit against CertainTeed for failure to warn of the hazards of asbestos and for selling a defectively designed product.

The trial court dismissed the daughter’s claims against CertainTeed on the grounds that a prior Georgia decision had eliminated take home liability as the basis of a claim for damages. The state court of appeals reversed this decision, holding that the daughter’s claim based upon defective design of the pipe could proceed. (The trial court’s dismissal of the claim based upon the manufacturer’s failure to warn was affirmed.) This decision was affirmed in a unanimous Supreme Court decision announced last week.

The effect of a state court decision on the laws of another state can be difficult to predict, but this case will eliminate the argument frequently used by asbestos product manufacturers that Georgia has eliminated take home liability. Anyone suffering from a disease causes by exposure to asbestos fibers – mesothelioma, asbestosis or lung cancer – may wish to consult a lawyer who specializes in asbestos product litigation for advice on whether a claim for damages is likely to succeed.

Source: Daily Report, “High Court Grants Woman With Lung Disease Right to Sue Asbestos Pipe-Maker,” Katheryn Hayes Tucker, Dec. 1, 2016