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Court rejects "any-fiber" asbestos lawsuit theory

In civil courts in Madison County and throughout the country, judges are grappling with the medical theory and "each and every fiber" of asbestos that is inhaled contributes substantially to mesothelioma, lung cancer and other asbestos-related diseases.

Recently, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania dismissed that notion, which is known as the "any fiber," "any exposure" or "any breath" asbestos exposure theory. In its ruling, the court stated that a medical expert cannot testify that a single asbestos fiber caused a plaintiff's mesothelioma while also claiming that the disease is dose-responsive.

The ruling was made in a 2005 lawsuit filed by a man who had been diagnosed with mesothelioma after working as an automotive mechanic for 44 years. In his suit, the man claimed that his disease was the result of his exposure to brake linings and other asbestos-containing friction products. He named several defendants including Ford Motor Company and Allied Signal Inc.

When mesothelioma claimed the man's life, his wife was substituted as the plaintiff.

The case was selected as a "test case" to determine whether expert testimony that the "any fiber" theory was admissible and relevant to the causation of asbestos-related illnesses. In the initial case, the judge shot down such testimony from the plaintiff's medical expert, questioning how he could simultaneously maintain that mesothelioma is both dose-responsive (in other words, that a higher level of asbestos exposure leads to a greater likelihood of contracting the disease) and that it results from "any fiber" of asbestos.

Although an appeals court overturned the judge's ruling, the Supreme Court affirmed it, sending the case back to the appeals court to determine whether there were any additional issues to decide.

Source: Legal Newsline, "PA. SC shoots down 'any-exposure' asbestos theory," Jessica M. Karmasek, May 24, 2012

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