What is “take-home” liability for asbestos exposure?

Most of the asbestos exposure cases from North Carolina and elsewhere that have been discussed in this blog involve direct exposure, that is, the plaintiff was exposed to asbestos fibers on the job or elsewhere. A number of recent cases have focused on a different kind of liability – the harm caused by asbestos fibers that were inhaled by a family member as he or she laundered the work clothing of someone who was exposed to asbestos fibers during the work day. In this post, we will review so called “take-home” liability for asbestos product exposure.

The basic question regarding take-home liability is whether the defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff to refrain from using asbestos-containing products or owed a duty to warn of the known health hazards of exposure to asbestos products. If no duty is owed, the plaintiff has no claim. State courts that have ruled on this issue do not agree. Some have found that such a duty exists, and others have reached a contrary conclusion. Generally, courts have ruled that liability exists if the danger of exposure to asbestos fibers in the home is reasonably foreseeable.

Take-home exposure plaintiffs are limited in the types of cases they can bring. Because these plaintiffs were not employed by the entity that owned the place where the direct exposure occurred, they have no workers compensation benefits. Also, they cannot allege that the work premises were not maintained in a safe manner because they were not exposed to the asbestos on those premises. A factor that favors many take-home plaintiffs is the fact they suffer from mesothelioma, a disease that is caused almost exclusively by asbestos product exposure.

Anyone who has received a diagnosis of an asbestos-related disease such as mesothelioma, lung cancer or asbestosis may wish to consult an attorney who specializes in product liability cases stemming from asbestos exposure. Such a consultation can provide a useful analysis of the facts of the case and an estimate of the likelihood of recovering damages for medical expenses, lost income and pain and suffering.

Source: Law 360, “Timing Is Everything In ‘Take-Home’ Asbestos Cases,” Douglas B. Pfeiffer, Sep. 29, 2014, accessed on Nov. 8, 2016