The nationally recognized Nemeroff Law Firm won a major victory for victims of occupational diseases in Pennsylvania. In a landmark decision, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court reversed a Superior Court decision and recognized an employee’s right to bring a civil action against an employer for a latent occupational disease.
In Landis v. A.W. Chesterton, et al. and Tooey v. A.K. Steel Corp., plaintiffs developed mesothelioma from years of work-related asbestos exposure. Under prior interpretations of the Workers Compensation Act in Pennsylvania, however, Landis and Tooey were unable to seek workers compensation benefits, or file civil action against their employer, because their mesothelioma did not manifest within 300 weeks of the date of last exposure.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the Act did not apply to latent occupational diseases, or diseases that might take years to develop and be diagnosed, and therefore victims were not prohibited from filing a common law claim against an employer.
In its written opinion, the court stated that interpretations should be “consistent with the humanitarian purposes of the Act,” and “resolve in favor of the employee.”
“It is inconceivable that the legislature, in enacting a statute specifically designed to benefit employees, intended to leave a certain class of employees who have suffered the most serious of work-related injuries without any redress under the Act or at common law,” the court wrote.
“This is a major victory for our clients and for victims of occupational diseases,” said Rick Nemeroff, president and founder of The Nemeroff Law Firm. “Mr. Landis and Mr. Tooey, like many employees diagnosed with latent occupational diseases, had no chance for relief from the employers that had exposed them to occupational toxins. This opinion goes a long way toward protecting their rights, and the rights of other employees and their families, who have suffered from negligence or wrong-doing by an employer.”
John Tooey worked as an industrial salesman from 1964 until 1982 and during his employment sold asbestos containing products, which caused him to be exposed to asbestos dust. In December 2007, Tooey developed mesothelioma and died less than one year later. Spurgeon Landis worked for a manufacturer of welding rods from 1946 until 1992 and, during his employment, he too was exposed to asbestos dust. Mr. Landis was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2007 and died in 2012.
“Virtually every other state, except for the state of Louisiana, restricts the rights of victims in these cases,” Nemeroff said. “We hope this humanitarian decision in Pennsylvania will influence other states to take action to protect the rights of those have suffered due to employer neglect or misconduct.”
The appeal was briefed by Roderick S. Marshall of The Nemeroff Law Firm and Brent M. Rosenthal of The Law Offices of Brent Rosenthal, and argued by Robert F. Daley of Robert N. Peirce & Associates.