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Sunday, August 22, 2010

$7 Million Verdict Upheld for Wife of Asbestos Worker for Handling Workers Clothes

A NJ Appellate Court upheld an award of $7 Million dollars to the wife of an asbestos worker. The spouse washed her hushand's street clothes  that he used at work. She developed mesothelioma, a cancer associated with exposure to asbestos fiber, as a result of laundering her husband's contaminated clothing.

The worker was employed at the Exxon Refinery in Linden, NJ where he was exposed to asbestos while removing insulation from equipment at the plant.. The company held safety meetings and gave the workers helmets but did not furnish respirators to protect them from the hazards of asbestos, a know carcinogen.

Mesothelioma, a cancer associated with the exposure to asbestos fiber, has a long latency period. It may take between 15 to 35 years to develop after the first exposure to asbestos fiber. 

It has been long recognized that household contacts, ie. spouses and family members, who come into contact with asbestos workers may develop asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. The first know legal action was brought in New Jersey successfully for a household contact in 1981 who developed mesothelioma as a result of cleaning her husband's clothes. He had worked at the Union Asbestos and Rubber Company in Paterson, NJ during World War II.

The Court also rejected that the spouse,  also a former employee at Exxon, should have been required to seek benefits under workers' compensation.  
"In our view, the judge's decision here to apply the dual persona doctrine is buttressed by the Supreme Court's pronoun-cement in Olivo, supra, 186 N.J. at 405, to impose a separate duty on employers for injuries to a worker's spouse caused by bystander exposure to the asbestos brought home on work clothes. That is, although Exxon could not be held liable to Bonnie based on her direct occupational exposure, it could be held liable pursuant to Olivo, based on her separate exposure to the asbestos brought home by John from his Exxon job."



"Thus, consideration of the relevant legal principles in light of the disputed evidence presented on the summary judgment motions leads us to the conclusion that there were genuine issues of material fact about the actual extent of Bonnie's and John's exposures to asbestos, which precluded summary judgment. Whether Exxon could be held liable pursuant to the dual persona doctrine require a jury determination. Thus, we affirm the judge's denials of summary judgment."

Anderson v, A.J. Friedman Supply Co. Inc., A5892-07, NJ App Div 2010.






Click here to read more about asbestos related disease and claims for benefits. For over 3 decades the Law Offices of Jon L. Gelman 1.973.696.7900 jon@gelmans.com  have been representing injured workers and their families who have suffered asbestos related illnesses.

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