The last 90 days have seen two Court of Appeal decisions addressing this question: when a worker has been exposed to asbestos fibers and brought those fibers home on his or her clothing, can a relative who contracts mesothelioma sue a source of those taken home fibers seeking recovery for the relative’s damages?
This “take-home” question is pretty hot in the asbestos litigation world nationwide, both legally and scientifically. A recent review of the epidemiological literature by Donavan and others concluded that there was an apparent association between para-occupational exposure and disease only for family members of workers from industries associated with high levels of exposure to amphibole or mixed fiber asbestos. But the question here is this: When a worker is occupationally exposed to asbestos and brings the fibers home on his clothing, can the spouse or child who does the laundry sue thirty or forty years later on the theory that the take-home exposure caused disease?
As of today, the answer in California seems to be “yes and no,” depending on who is sued. If the fibers on the clothing came from asbestos-containing products, and the exposed-at-home plaintiff sues the worker’s employer for negligence, there is no liability because the employer owes no legal duty to the family member. Campbell v. Ford Motor Company (2012) 206 Cal.App.4th 15. Why?
Find out after the jump.