Both state and federal courts weighing the issue of “how much asbestos exposure is too much” have tended to reject the notion that any exposure to the toxic substance is grounds for litigation. Typically, one has to prove repeated exposure through specific sources, usually over the course of months, years, or even decades, and then link that exposure to asbestos-related illness, such as lung cancer, mesothelioma, or asbestosis.
Recently, however, an opinion delivered by justices of the Louisiana Fourth District Court of Appeals indicates that as few as five days of exposure to asbestos could be considered a significant contributing factor or cause of a plaintiff’s contraction of asbestosis.
This may not mark a huge shift in the way courts nationally decide such cases, but it’s certainly relevant, and it’s conceivable other jurisdictions may follow the same reasoning in some cases. The plaintiff has not won the case but rather was given a chance to argue his position again after a trial court judge dismissed his action as a matter of law.
As our mesothelioma lawyers understand it, the appellate panel ruled there remained a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the plaintiff’s exposure to asbestos by one car manufacturer – a former employee – was a substantial contributing factor to his later diagnosis of asbestosis. For this reason, the trial court erred, and the appellate panel reversed.
According to court records, the underlying claim was that the plaintiff contracted the chronic lung condition as a result of job-related exposure to the fibers while he worked in various jobs between 1953 and 2006.
One of the defendants in Albares, et al. v. Anco Insulations, et al. was a car company in Louisiana. The plaintiff says he did a quick, five-day turnaround job where he lent his skills as a pipefitter to install and remove a number of gaskets. However, those gaskets, made by Garlock Sealing Technologies, contained asbestos.
Additionally, he asserts that, during those five days, he worked in the same space with insulators who were busy removing and installing insulation, which also was made with asbestos. At the close of each of those five days, the plaintiff reports he was instructed to clean up the excess insulation on the floor before heading home at the end of the day.
The plaintiff claims these five days of exposure were a significant contributing factor in his latent development of the disease. Like mesothelioma, asbestosis often does not become symptomatic until many years after exposure.
The plaintiff backed his claim by presenting two expert witnesses – one an industrial hygienist and the second a medical doctor. The first argued the asbestos exposure sustained by plaintiff during those five days would have been in concentration levels far beyond what we would consider “safe” by today’s standards. Thus, it could have reasonably been a major factor in his development of the disease.
The trial court granted summary judgment to this defendant on the grounds that the exposure here was minimal in comparison to the other defendants listed.
However, the appeals court reversed, noting there is no case law to support the defense notion that such a case should be dismissed.
This does not mean the plaintiff wins the case against the defense. However, he will be allowed to present it before a jury.
Help for mesothelioma victims can be found at The Ferraro Law Firm by calling 1-800-275-3332. Offices in Miami and Washington, D.C.
Five-day asbestos exposure could have been substantial cause of asbestosis, La. appeals court rules, Dec. 30, 2014, By Heather Isringhausen Gvillo, Legal Newsline
Albares, et al. v. Anco Insulations, et al., Dec. 10, 2015, Louisiana Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit
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