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Court rules asbestos exposure may extend to family members

A diagnosis of mesothelioma is catastrophic. There is no cure for the fatal form of cancer of the chest and abdomen, and because of its dormancy, victims can typically expect their lives to end only a short time after their diagnosis. The link between mesothelioma and asbestos exposure is widely accepted. Although the use of asbestos in Ohio and across the country has declined over the decades, the risk of exposure still exists because it was so widely used in building construction and automotive manufacturing.

Historically, asbestos-related lawsuits were filed by or in the name of stricken employees against the employers who knowingly exposed them to asbestos. Recently, however, the Supreme Court in another state opened the door for others to make such claims. Based on two cases, the court ruled that family members of employees who worked around asbestos products may also have been exposed to the microscopic fibers. If spouses or children are diagnosed with mesothelioma, the ban is lifted for them to file a lawsuit.

In one case, a woman died within one year of her diagnosis. Her children filed a claim against the railroad company where their father worked, alleging that their mother inhaled asbestos fibers from her husband's clothing because the company did not provide showers for workers to clean up before going home. The second case involved a man who, as a child, spent several days a week with his uncle who played with him while still wearing his work clothes. The uncle worked with asbestos products in a brake manufacturing plant.

Until this ruling, only people who had been exposed to asbestos in the workplace were allowed to sue because of a mesothelioma diagnosis. This clears the way for even more people to seek justice for the suffering they endured because of asbestos exposure. Many states, such as Ohio, have limits on who may file a claim. Discussing one's situation with an attorney will help one learn more about the state laws and the steps to take if he or she is eligible to file a claim.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Companies can be held liable when workers bring home asbestos dust that sickens others, court rules", Maura Dolan, Dec. 2, 2016

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