Ruling Paves Way for Secondary Asbestos Claims

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A recent Washington State Court of Appeals decision has paved the way for claims to be filed on behalf of individuals exposed to deadly asbestos fibers brought into the home by family members who worked with the deadly material. The decision overturned a lower court ruling and set a precedent that could allow hundreds of these family members and others living in the same home as exposed workers to file their own claims, notes a press release on PR Web.

“For decades, people working with or around asbestos products brought deadly fibers home on their clothing, thereby exposing their families to cancerous materials,” explains Seattle attorney Matthew Bergman. “Until now it has been very difficult for individuals who develop asbestos-related diseases as a result of household exposures to pursue a claim against the employer, even though the hazards of asbestos were well documented by the early 1950s. This ruling gives new hope to family members suffering from diseases caused by asbestos exposure.”

“There is not a day that goes by that I don’t wish I could go back and change things,” says Lawrence Rochon, whose wife Adeline was diagnosed with mesothelioma in November 2004 and passed away soon after. “My wife was a wonderful woman who took pride in caring for her family. She didn’t deserve to die in such a horrible way.”

Adeline Rochon was exposed to asbestos brought home on the clothes of her husband, who was a long time employee at Scott Paper Mill in Everett, WA. It is believed that the process of shaking out and washing her husband’s work clothes caused Mrs. Rochon to inhale deadly fibers.

Kimberly Clark, who acquired Scott Paper in 1996, had successfully argued in Snohomish County Superior Court that it had no duty of care to Mrs. Rochon because the potential for harm was not foreseeable, notes court records. The Washington State Court of Appeals overturned the lower court’s ruling. Judge J. Cox wrote in the decision, “Kimberly Clark had a duty to prevent injury from an unreasonable risk of harm it had itself created.”

For decades, thousands upon thousands of Washington residents were employed in industries that used asbestos on a regular basis before asbestos warnings were issued in the mid-1970s, including the shipbuilding, paper, aluminum, and wood products industries. The state has the second-highest rate of asbestos-caused cancer in the nation.