Asbestos Company Fails to Evade Liability for Iowa Woman’s Mesothelioma

In August of 2017, Barbara Reed died of malignant mesothelioma after being diagnosed with the disease in April of 2016. When she and her family filed suit against those responsible, they included Reichhold, Inc., the company that had supplied asbestos-contaminated molds to her employer. Though the company tried to leverage an old Iowa law that limited liability as the “sole cause of the employer,” the court denied their motion to dismiss the case and allowed the case to proceed.

Woman’s Mesothelioma Blamed on Asbestos Exposure in the 1970s

Mrs. Reed began seeking justice shortly after her mesothelioma diagnosis. In September of 2016 she provided testimony in anticipation of her death, explaining that she was participating in a clinical trial but that she had already lost 35 pounds and had difficulty in standing, walking, and bathing. She described her constant pain and her physician’s assessment that she might be so weakened that she could not be treated with chemotherapy.  

In her deposition testimony the mesothelioma victim testified that she had been exposed to asbestos while working at Square D Manufacturing Plant in the Plastics Mold Cleaning and Bakelight Departments. She named those companies that had provided raw asbestos and asbestos-containing phenolic compounds to the plant during the years that she worked there, including Reichold.

Company’s Argument Against Mesothelioma Liability Fails

In its argument against having to defend itself against liability for Mrs. Reed’s mesothelioma, Reichhold did not deny that its products contained asbestos or that the asbestos had sickened her. Rather they turned to an old Iowa law that restricted liability to her employer as the sole proximate cause of her injuries for having failed “to institute asbestos safety precautions, including respiratory protection.”

In his decision, District Judge Osteen reviewed the way that Iowa’s liability laws have evolved over the years and wrote, “This court will not permit defendant to raise the sole proximate cause defense.” He noted that the use of the term has been the result of a misinterpretation of the law that “incorrectly implies that there can be only one proximate cause of harm and obscures a more direct and precise explanation.” Reichhold will face a jury that will decide its role in Mrs. Reed’s case and what compensation they owe to her survivors.

If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, there are many resources available to you and to your family. For assistance, contact the Patient Advocates at at 1-800-692-8608.

Terri Heimann Oppenheimer

Terri Oppenheimer

Terri Heimann Oppenheimer is the head writer of our news blog. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. Terri believes that knowledge is power and she is committed to sharing news about the impact of mesothelioma, the latest research and medical breakthroughs, and victims’ stories.

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