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Pennsylvania Asbestos and Mesothelioma Injury Claims

In a recent mesothelioma case, a man who was the administrator of his wife’s estate appealed the grant of summary judgment in an asbestos case. He had sued several defendants after his wife died of mesothelioma in 2010.

He had worked in a refinery that contained asbestos from 1973-2010 and he claimed that he got asbestos on his work clothes from the turbines. He would come home everyday wearing work clothes, which would be laundered regularly by his wife. He believed she had gotten mesothelioma as a result.

The defendants filed for summary judgment. The trial court granted these motions. The plaintiff appealed. He argued there were issues of material fact about the wife’s frequent and regular exposure to asbestos. Among other things, he also argued that there were genuine issues of material fact about whether one of the defendants was liable for asbestos located in its steam traps.

The appellate court explained that to show liability in a products liability lawsuit, a plaintiff must establish that a particular manufacturer or supplier’s product caused injuries. A plaintiff can defeat a summary judgment motion by putting forward evidence to show he inhaled asbestos fibers from a particular manufacturer’s product. He cannot simply show asbestos existed at his workplace.

The appellate court explained that the question in its review of summary judgment was whether the plaintiff had shown enough issues of material fact about the cause of a decedent’s disease by the product of each defendant. The frequency of the product use and regularity of the plaintiff’s employment and proximity of the asbestos were crucial. This is known as the regularity-frequency-proximity standard where there is no direct, but only circumstantial evidence of asbestos exposure.

The court explained that in this case, the issue was not whether the products were used with such regularity and frequency such that he breathed fibers from the products. It was rather whether his work regularly and frequently placed him close to the defendants’ products and whether the jury could therefore conclude the decedent had breathed in the fibers while doing laundry.

One of the defendants had claimed the plaintiff failed to offer sufficient evidence to satisfy the standard and argued the statute of repose barred the plaintiff’s claims. The plaintiff filed an answer that included documentation that the decedent breathed asbestos fibers that were shed by the defendant’s product.

Specifically he submitted product identification that stated asbestos was in the defendant’s turbines. He also attached deposition testimony from his brother who worked at the same job and testified the boilers were insulated with asbestos. He knew because at one point, a tube blew in the boiler and the shell of the boiler was asbestos insulation. The brother had testified that anybody who worked in a refinery would be exposed to asbestos during an upset.

The plaintiff admitted that by 1996 he had been warned about the dangers of asbestos. However, he didn’t know that asbestos could get on clothes and be taken home with a worker.

The appellate court explained he did not present evidence specifically placing him in proximity to the turbines. The plaintiff had not been able to show he carried asbestos home or that the decedent inhaled the fibers and got sick as a result. The court affirmed the lower court’s grant of summary judgment.

An experienced Pennsylvania personal injury attorney can evaluate the facts of your particular case if you are hurt because of somebody else’s negligence and bring a lawsuit on your behalf if appropriate. Contact the attorneys at Needle Law Firm at 570-344-1266 or via our online form for a free consultation.

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