Thanks to a recent decision by the California Supreme Court, mesothelioma victims in the Golden State now have additional legal protections available if they were ever exposed to asbestos by their housemates.
In Kesner v. Superior Court, a unanimous court determined that housemates of workers who bring home asbestos from their jobs – whether on their clothing, possessions or bodies – can sue the workers’ employers if they develop mesothelioma or other illnesses as a result of the secondary asbestos exposure. Importantly, this holding applies to all household members, and not just immediate family members.
An employer’s duty to prevent secondary asbestos exposure
In this recent decision, the court was asked to review two consolidated cases: one involving a nephew who developed cancer following alleged exposure to asbestos from his uncle’s work clothes, and another involving a wrongful death claim brought be the children of woman who had allegedly been exposed to asbestos fibers by her husband. In both cases, the victims spent significant time in the same homes as the asbestos workers.
Ultimately, the court found that employers have a duty to prevent such secondary asbestos exposure. In fact, when reaching its decision, the court said, “Where it is reasonably foreseeable that workers, their clothing, or personal effects will […] carry asbestos from the [worksite] to household members, employers have a duty to take reasonable care to prevent this means of transmission.”
However, while the court determined that employers do have a duty to prevent secondary asbestos exposure, it also made clear that “[t]his duty only extends only to members of a worker’s household.” This means that others who come into contact with the worker, such as carpool partners or fellow commuters, may not be able to bring a claim against the employer if they develop mesothelioma following their asbestos exposure.
Even though there is no denying that this recent opinion is certainly a victory for asbestos victims, sadly, this decision only applies in California – meaning victims in other jurisdictions may have a harder time proving their case should they be exposed to asbestos by a housemate. This is why you should always contact an experienced attorney should you have any questions. A skilled attorney can explain your legal options and help ensure your rights are protected.