Asbestos exposure in those who did not work directly with the carcinogen, but were exposed through a family member that did, is known as take-home exposure. As workers came home with asbestos dust on their clothes, hair, shoes, and tools, they were unknowingly contaminating their household. Wives have contracted mesothelioma by doing their husband’s laundry; children through something as simple as a hug. “Take- home cases” specifically target those suffering from asbestos illnesses that were not physically present at the location where asbestos was handled. Over the years, family members who have fallen victim to such exposure have been able to receive compensation for their injuries as courts have decided that employers were indeed obligated to warn workers and their families about the dangers of asbestos exposure.
Direct family members have been protected by this and now, a decision by a federal Judge in Pennsylvania in February 2018 states that the duty also extends past spouses, and should be applicable to roommates, or to those who frequent the residence that is contaminated.
The decision comes after the wife of a former beryllium worker contracted chronic beryllium disease – a chronic lung disease caused by beryllium exposure. While the couple was dating, the worker and his roommate at the time both worked at Accuratus Corp. and would come home covered in beryllium, a naturally occurring earth metal typically used as an additive to strengthen aluminum, copper, nickel, and iron. However, at the time of beryllium exposure, the couple was not married and the court initially concluded that neither “New Jersey or Pennsylvania imposed a duty on employers to prevent exposures for roommates,” nor could Accuratus Corp. not be held liable for not knowing that the couple would later marry. The couple appealed.
The argument remained that the beryllium exposure and subsequent illness was foreseeable. Like asbestos, beryllium is toxic in nature and is able to “travel” outside the work place, becoming attached to clothing which can then contaminate the home and whoever comes in contact with the clothing. Even though Accuratus Corp. had no direct relationship with the victim, Accuratus Corp. was aware of the health effects associated with beryllium and had some knowledge that people in her position could potentially suffer injury. The eventual wife of the beryllium worker spent large amounts of time in the contaminated household while they were dating – even laundering the clothes that contained the toxic substance. Since the liability of Accuratus Corp. remains in question, the judge denied summary judgement. Trail is scheduled for March 2018.
If the results of this trial are in favor of the plaintiff, then take-home exposure could extend to anyone who visits a contaminated home. However, those affected by secondhand exposure must still be able to prove exposure, which can be a daunting and difficult task. At Goldberg, Persky & White, P.C., we understand the devastating effects that take home exposure has on loved ones and are dedicated to helping workers injured by asbestos protect their rights and those of their families. Contact GPW today to speak to a knowledgeable and experienced attorney.