In the first installment of this two-part series, we discussed why mesothelioma patients, asbestos disease patients, and their family members should file a lawsuit. As we continue onto part two, we will cover asbestos liability, what it is, and who the plaintiff may hold liable for their asbestos-caused injuries.
Asbestos disease patients have a right to file against the companies responsible for the devastating effects of asbestos exposure—companies that have a legal responsibility to protect their employees, their customers, and the public at large.
Keep reading to learn who may be liable in asbestos and mesothelioma lawsuits.
What is asbestos liability?
Asbestos liability refers to a company’s legal responsibility for injuries to an individual resulting from asbestos exposure. If a court or jury determines that a company is liable, the victims may recover damages for their asbestos injuries or those of their loved ones.
Encounters with the toxic mineral asbestos often fall within the following three categories:
- Occupational Exposure – Asbestos exposure that occurs on the job (e.g., insulators, pipe fitters, carpenters, brake mechanics, power plant workers).
- Secondhand Exposure – Asbestos exposure resulting from another person’s work with asbestos (e.g., spouses handling asbestos-contaminated work clothes during laundry).
- Contaminated Consumer Products Exposure – Asbestos exposure due to using “everyday products” contaminated with asbestos (e.g., talcum powder).
Proving mesothelioma or asbestos disease liability requires the plaintiff to develop proof of exposure. Unfortunately, the longer a disease’s latency period, the more difficult it can be to establish exposure.
Such is the case in many mesothelioma lawsuits, as the disease’s latency period ranges from 15 to 50 years, meaning that the exposure to asbestos products that caused the condition occurred many decades ago. Therefore, it is crucial to have lawyers on your side who are well-versed in the history of asbestos products and their manufacturers and when, where, and how these products were used.
Who is liable?
In asbestos and mesothelioma lawsuits, potentially liable defendants include:
- Asbestos-containing product (s) manufacturers, sellers, and distributors.
- Asbestos-contaminated property (s) owners.
These lawsuits often contain multiple defendants and will name several defendants from each of the three groups discussed above. The facts of each respective case will dictate these defendants’ varying degrees of guilt or culpability.
Asbestos-Containing Product(s) Manufacturers, Sellers, & Distributors
These Defendants made, sold, or distributed thousands of asbestos-containing products. The number and type of products that contain asbestos are vast and diverse. The following list is only a small sampling of these dangerous products:
- Insulation and Refractories
- Boilers, Furnaces, and Turbines
- Industrial Valves and Pumps
- Gaskets and Other Sealing Materials
- Engines, Brakes and Clutches
- Household Goods
Asbestos-Contaminated Property(s) Owners
Owners of large pieces of property who invite workers onto their premises to perform necessary construction and repair work are responsible for keeping their property reasonably safe for these invitees. When a premises is contaminated with asbestos, that premises is unsafe.
Many mesothelioma and asbestos disease patients encountered regular exposure to significant levels of airborne asbestos fibers on these properties, including:
- Power Plants,
- Chemical Plants,
- Refineries, and
- Manufacturing Plants.
Less frequently, smaller community buildings may also contain asbestos products that, due to the passage of time and a lack of proper upkeep, degrade to the point where they may become hazardous to occupants (e.g., old and deteriorating insulation, ceiling tiles, or even floor tiles in schools and courthouses).
Employees have the right to a reasonably safe workplace.
Employers have a legal duty to provide safe working conditions. One or more of the following failures justifies liability when a worker contracts mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis, or other asbestos diseases:
- Employers who expose their employees to asbestos on the job.
- Employers who fail to remove dangerous asbestos products from the workplace.
- Employers who fail to adequately educate and warn employees of the risks of working with and around asbestos.
- Employers who fail to provide appropriate safety training and place their workforce in harm’s way.
How does the law determine liability?
It is common for attorneys to base the plaintiff’s asbestos lawsuit on product liability law, which frequently involves allegations of negligence and strict liability.
In layman’s terms, to succeed in a claim for product liability rooted in negligence, a plaintiff must prove the following:
- The defendant owed a duty of care to the injured party (e.g., an obligation to provide a reasonably safe product when put to its intended use).
- The defendant breached that duty of care by negligently designing or manufacturing the product or by negligently failing to warn users of the product’s dangerous qualities (e.g., asbestos insulation, when put to its expected and proper use, releases asbestos fibers into the air, and therefore must contain adequate warnings as to appropriate usage).
- The defendant’s breach caused, in whole or in part, the injury to the plaintiff.
- The plaintiff has suffered damages as a result.
Strict liability claims are similar to negligence claims but remove the negligence requirement. There is no requirement that a product manufacturer act in a faulty manner when it designed and fabricated the product or failed to warn of the product’s hazards. Liability will be attached if the product is unsafe when put to its intended use.
Get Connected with Attorneys Experienced in Asbestos Law
At The O’Brien Law Firm, we use our deep understanding of the intricacies of asbestos and mesothelioma law to get our clients the compensation they deserve after the liable defendant wrongfully exposed them to asbestos.
Contact us today so we can start fighting for you and your loved ones.
To inquire about The O’Brien Law Firm’s services, please complete our online contact form. You may also call our office at (314) 588-0558!