Following Judge’s Mesothelioma Death, Court Scolds County Over Asbestos Exposure

James Farris died of malignant peritoneal mesothelioma suddenly and without warning. He had been feeling ill for some time but had not pursued a diagnosis. Then, in 2004 he gave a speech to a gathered group, went home and told his wife he couldn’t continue with his work, went to the hospital and died nine days later. His illness was only identified upon his death.  A few months after, his widow filed suit against 39 defendants that provided asbestos to his workplace, as well as against Jefferson County, Texas, where Farris had served as an elected judge for nearly 30 years. The courthouse was renovated and restored through a variety of projects between the late 1970s and early 1980s, and Mrs. Farris’ claim argued that the county was partially responsible for his exposure and subsequent death. She won her case against the county, but the county appealed on a variety of grounds. In ruling against them, the court took pointed issue with the county’s argument.

Judge Calls Defendant’s Argument “Irrational”

Though the judges of the Court of Appeals of Texas, First District, Houston were unified in their position affirming the trial court’s order in the mesothelioma case, Justice Terry Jennings took the opportunity to take special issue with the county’s argument. He wrote separately to “note the irrationality of the argument of appellant, Jefferson County, Texas” that the widow had not provided them of “timely notice.” In the county’s argument, they had indicated that the late judge’s claim should have been provided within months of the last date of exposure. The justice noted that Judge Farris died almost eight years after his last exposure and a mere nine days after he first began to exhibit symptoms of his illness.

Widow Faces Same Challenge As Other Mesothelioma Victims

The justice wrote, “Based on Jefferson County’s logic, Judge Farris would have been required to provide it with notice of a premature and speculative claim.” This is frequently an issue for mesothelioma patients who have been victims of asbestos exposure, but the situation became even more apparent to the justices when it was one of their own who was affected.

When a person is exposed to asbestos, they are at risk for malignant mesothelioma, but there is no way of telling whether they will actually develop the disease until years and sometimes decades later. If you or someone you love has been affected by this difficult illness, 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.

Learn More About And Contact Terri
Get Help Contacting
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
24/7 Live Chat
Online Now