Attorney Chris Norris, head of the appellate practice at Nemeroff Law Firm, was recently quoted in an article on Law360 discussing the controversial issue of take-home asbestos exposure cases. In asbestos litigation, take-home exposure refers to secondary exposure. These cases typically involve instances where employees who are exposed to asbestos in the workplace subsequently expose friends or family members to harmful asbestos materials.
Take-home exposure cases have presented a great deal of complexity and disagreement among the legal community. The Law360 article illustrates this point by citing two pending California cases. In August, the California Supreme Court agreed to consider lower court decisions which resulted in two different outcomes about whether companies have a duty to compensate asbestos victims they did not have a direct relationship with. One case ruled that a product manufacturer owed a duty to the nephew of an employee. The other ruled that there cannot be premises liability for secondary exposures.
According to the article, courts will commonly use one of two tests to determine whether companies owe a duty to victims of secondary exposure:
Foreseeability Analysis – Considers whether a company could expect that employees could expose family members to asbestos fibers at home from dust-coated clothing or possessions.
Special Relationship Analysis – Considers whether a company had a direct contractual relationship with an asbestos victims.
Attorney Norris commented on the conflict, stating that “the question, legally, has come down on two different sides, the question of what was foreseeable, to a product maker or premises owner. Some states say foreseeability itself doesn’t create a duty, and other states have basically said that it’s common sense that a worker’s spouse could be exposed, but that they might not extend the duty as far if it’s a visiting granddaughter or someone like that.”
Legal experts are hopeful that the California cases will provide some clarity on secondary asbestos exposure cases across the country, but as Attorney Norris notes, the issue has largely been divided on a state-by-state basis. If you have questions about take-home asbestos exposure and your rights, contact the Nemeroff Law Firm for a free consultation.