Three former employees of BNSF Railways and the widow of a fourth have filed lawsuits against the railroad company, claiming that they were exposed to asbestos during the course of their employment, causing them to suffer irreversible damage to their health. All four employees worked as carmen on BNSF passenger and freight cars, which caused them to contract lung diseases and, in the case of the deceased worker, the colon cancer that would ultimately claim his life.
The claims against BNSF is just the latest in a long series of asbestos lawsuits filed against railroad companies, accusing company executives of continuing to expose their workers to deadly asbestos fibers for years and even decades after learning of the many dangers that could result from exposure to asbestos fibers. As such, this will certainly not be the last lawsuit BNSF and other railroad companies defend against.
In response to an earlier lawsuit filed by two of the plaintiffs’ co-workers, BNSF denied any responsibility for its employees exposure to asbestos and the resulting diseases. Specifically, the company stated that it could not have known about the dangers of asbestos exposure at the time it occurred. Further, it accused the plaintiffs of failing to “exercise reasonable care for their own health and safety,” and therefore being partially responsible for their exposure and the resulting health negative effects on their health.
Blaming workers for not taking action to prevent their asbestos exposure while denying that the company had any knowledge of the dangers of that exposure seems like a bold move. It will be interesting to see whether that tactic is successful in court.
Source: Lincoln Journal Star, “More asbestos lawsuits filed against BNSF,” Richard Piersol, July 12, 2012