Ernest Quiroz Jr. died from mesothelioma in 2014. His lawsuit against his father’s former employer maintained that he had been exposed to asbestos as a boy, decades ago, from toxic dust brought home on his father’s work clothes.
But last week, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that employers owe no duty to family members of workers who were exposed to “take-home” asbestos. This ruling is disheartening for thousands of families who have lost loved ones from secondary asbestos mesothelioma.
Secondary asbestos is a known killer
When he developed mesothelioma in 2013, Ernest Quiroz Jr. sued Reynolds Metal Co., the aluminum foil manufacturer. Mr. Quiroz’ father had worked at a Reynolds plant between 1948 and 1983. Aluminum smelting uses substantial amounts of asbestos, and thousands of plant workers were exposed to dust with high concentrations of asbestos fibers.
When Mr. Quiroz died in 2014, his family continued a wrongful death action against Reynolds and Alcoa (which later purchased Reynolds). The lawsuit contended that Reynolds was negligent in exposing workers to asbestos and, by proxy, exposing family members of those employees.
Mesothelioma by secondary exposure is well documented. Spouses might inhale the airborne asbestos fibers when doing the worker’s laundry. A child, such as Ernest Quiroz, might inhale the dust on a daily basis by greeting his father with a hug or otherwise coming in close contact with contaminated clothing.
Arizona courts rule there is no liability for secondary asbestos exposure
A lower court had ruled that Reynolds/Alcoa was not negligent, and therefore not responsible for contaminated dust that workers carried home. The Arizona Court of Appeals granted summary judgment in favor of the employers, and now the Arizona Supreme Court has affirmed this interpretation.
Courts in a handful of states have held that employers can be liable for secondary asbestos exposure, but courts in more than a dozen states have ruled similarly to Arizona. Therefore, the success of mesothelioma lawsuits for take-home asbestos may depend on the laws or judicial precedents in the jurisdiction where the exposures occurred. Sometimes it is possible to bring the suit in another state where such liability is recognized.
It is not only blue collar workers and military personnel who have to worry about asbestos illness. Their family members were at risk too, and thousands of those loved ones have suffered and died as a result of second-hand asbestos. Seek legal help if you suspect a family member’s workplace exposure resulted in take-home asbestos exposure.