New York courts uphold the rights of second-hand asbestos victims
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New York courts uphold the rights of second-hand asbestos victims

Companies that expose their workers or even their customers to unsafe levels of dangerous substances often try to deny their wrongdoing. They may at first deny that they caused exposure, and then they later deny that the exposure would result in any health issues.

Both employees and consumers often face an uphill battle when trying to hold a business responsible for some kind of toxic exposure. Thankfully, when it comes to asbestos, the clear correlation between workplace exposure and the development of mesothelioma leads to relatively straightforward compensation cases.

Those who become sick because of their work can take action against their employer by suing, filing an insurance claim or seeking compensation from an asbestos bankruptcy trust. Recently, the New York Supreme Court ruled to allow an asbestos-related case to move forward. In doing so, they upheld the rights of victims of second-hand asbestos exposure.

What was the issue that led to the court ruling?

The wife and now widow of an employee who worked with asbestos has since developed cancer. She has malignant mesothelioma, while her husband died of lung cancer. Both conditions have a known correlation with asbestos exposure.

She filed a lawsuit against the asbestos trust for a company that provided components her husband often encountered at work that contained asbestos. The trusts tried to deny her compensation and then rejected her claims in court, seeking the dismissal of her case.

The issue has moved up through the system until the New York Supreme Court ruled on the matter at the end of January, 2021. Although they didn’t summarily find for the plaintiff, they did agree that companies have some degree of responsibility when it comes to pushing back against claims of second- hand exposure. They rejected the trust’s request to dismiss the case, effectively allowing it to proceed to trial. Such a ruling is encouraging for those dealing with the effects of second-hand asbestos exposure.

How does second-hand exposure occur?

If someone doesn’t wear specialized clothing when handling asbestos, the particulate matter might be on their skin, in their hair and on their clothing. When they go home, everyone they interact with could encounter those asbestos particles by hugging them or handling their laundry.

Giving employees proper gear and providing them with spaces to clean up before they head home is crucial to keeping asbestos particles contained and avoiding exposure to people outside of a facility. If the company did not have adequate steps in place, they may have liability for the people who became sick as a result of their practices.