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“Any Exposure” Asbestos Appeal Rejected by PA Appellate Court
An appellate court in Pennsylvania recently upheld a $1.3 million award against welding firm Hobart Brothers Co., following a challenge that alleged an expert witness had run afoul of a recent state high court decision rejecting the “any exposure” theory.
Our mesothelioma lawyers are pleased to hear that the court did not apply that ruling in an overly broad fashion, as it has been feared a significant blow to asbestos exposure plaintiffs throughout the state.
Similar challenges to the “any exposure” theory of asbestos have been made by asbestos defendants across the country, alleging that mere exposure of any amount is not enough to prove liability. (A similar case, Dixon v. Ford Motor Co. established the same precedent in Maryland last year.) Courts’ rejection of the theory requires plaintiffs to show a more extensive history of exposure. This is despite the fact that medical research has definitively shown that no amount of exposure to asbestos is safe for humans.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down the “any exposure” theory of asbestos causation in May 2012, with a 53-page ruling regarding a lawsuit initially filed in 2005. The plaintiff in that product liability action had alleged that Allied Signal Inc. and Ford Motor Co., among others, had exposed him to toxic, asbestos-containing products, such as brake linings, in the course of his 44-year career as an automotive mechanic. His case was among a number of similar others that were pending.
The defendants in the case had anticipated that the plaintiffs would rely on the “any exposure” theory (also sometimes referred to as “any breath” or “any fiber” legal theory, and preemptively filed a series of global motions challenging the admissibility of such claims).
After six years of legal wrangling, the state’s high court ruled 6-0 that the “any exposure” theory is a hypothesis, and should not be accepted as definitive proof.
That brings us to the most recent case. In Donoughe v. Lincoln Electric Co. and Hobart Brothers Co., the defendant was a welder who worked at a railroad shop for about three years in the mid-1970s. During his time there, he repaired air brakes and a number of products containing asbestos. The plaintiff, before he died of mesothelioma, testified that he was exposed to and inhaled the dust from the welding rods as they were removed from his containers.
At the jury trial, at which the victim’s wife assumed the primary role of plaintiff for her loss of consortium, the court awarded her $1.3 million. However, that verdict was appealed, alleging the plaintiff had relied on the “any exposure” theory.
The appellate court, however, ruled that the causation expert tapped by the plaintiffs at trial adequately established a connection between the worker’s exposure history and his fatal condition.
This case highlights again the importance for plaintiff attorneys to thoroughly establish a case for causation.
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Frequently Asked Questions: Mesothelioma & Asbestos
What is asbestos?
Asbestos is a carcinogenic, naturally occurring fibrous mineral. Known for its heat resistance and durability, asbestos has historically been used in insulation, construction materials, automotive parts, and shipbuilding materials.
Why is asbestos dangerous?
Asbestos is made up of small shard-like fibers that can easily become airborne when disturbed. If inhaled or ingested, these fibers can embed within the lining of the lungs, heart, stomach, or testes where they can cause cancer to form years or decades later.
What are asbestos-related diseases?
Asbestos exposure can cause mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer.
What causes mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is an aggressive and incurable form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Unfortunately, symptoms of mesothelioma may not appear until decades after exposure.
What are the different types of mesothelioma?
Three of the most common types of mesothelioma are pleural mesothelioma, peritoneal mesothelioma, and pericardial mesothelioma.
What are common mesothelioma symptoms?
Common symptoms of mesothelioma include difficulty breathing and chest pains. Peritoneal mesothelioma, which affects the stomach, may cause abdominal swelling, loss of appetite, constipation, abdominal pain, and nausea.
Do I qualify for compensation if I have mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a preventable form of cancer most commonly caused by asbestos exposure. If you were exposed to asbestos while serving in the U.S. military or while working in construction, mechanics, or a similar field, you may be eligible for compensation. Contact The Ferraro Law Firm for a free legal consultation.
What is the life expectancy for someone with mesothelioma?
There is no cure for mesothelioma. However, patients can receive treatments for mesothelioma that may extend their initial prognosis with proper treatment. Those diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma usually have a life expectancy that is greater than three years, though a large part of this depends on the stage the patient is diagnosed. The earlier the diagnosis, the longer the life expectancy and chance of long-term survival.
Do I qualify for compensation if I have mesothelioma?
If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you should immediately seek long-term medical treatment. After that, you should contact our firm to examine your legal rights. Since 1985, The Ferraro Law Firm has represented individuals with asbestos-related diseases and pursued fair compensation on their behalf. Our firm is one of the top five law firms in the U.S. handling mesothelioma and asbestos cases.
Help for mesothelioma victims can be found at The Ferraro Law Firm by calling (888) 554-2030. Offices in Miami, Washington, D.C., and New York City.
Donoughe v. Hobart Brothers Co. and Lincoln Electric Co., In the Superior Court of Pennsylvania
More Blog Entries:
Mesothelioma Patients vs. Insurance Companies – Fighting for the True Victims, March 4, 2013, Mesothelioma Lawyer Blog