New Jersey Supreme Court Rules on Important Second-Hand Asbestos Exposure Case
Asbestos has been used in manufacturing and construction settings for centuries, and it has long been suspected of causing serious and often fatal health problems. But it has only been in the last several decades that its toxicity has been well enough established for regulations to be put in place regarding its use, and that those who have been sickened by exposure to this carcinogen have been able to file legal claims for compensation for damages they have suffered. The law continues to evolve in this area as more is learned about the way that asbestos causes illness – and in an interesting case just resolved by the Supreme Court of New Jersey, it also evolves based on the various ways that our society has changed.
The case was brought by a family, the Schwartzes, against Accuratus Corporation. The husband, Paul, had worked for Accuratus in 1978 and 1979, which was before he and his wife Brenda were actually married. There is clear evidence that Paul had been exposed to asbestos at Accuratus’ New Jersey plant. Brenda was recently diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, and the couple filed suit based upon previously established law regarding the impact of and responsibility for take-home asbestos, and the fact that though they had not yet been married, she had frequently spent the night with Paul at his home and had been exposed to asbestos when she laundered his clothing, towel and bedding. Accuratus defended itself by saying that because they were not yet married, they had no duty of care to her; they argued that a duty of care should not extend beyond the spouse.
The court reviewed the case with an eye to whether the duty of care was “limitless” and extended to anybody that might randomly come into contact with somebody working with asbestos, or whether certain individuals might be foreseeably exposed – even if they were not officially married. In their ruling, the court specifically indicated that previous cases of take-home toxic-tort liability were not specifically based on the fact of a marriage as that it was foreseeable that somebody sharing the home might be exposed to asbestos-related clothing. They also pointed out that as society changes, the laws need to evolve along with it.
“One of the common law’s great virtues is that it is dynamic, adaptable, and can evolve to accommodate changes in society. In our stewardship of the common law, this Court has recognized, time and again, that the evolution of case law must reflect the simultaneous evolution of societal values and public policy. The common law requires flexibility to grow and change when appropriate to accommodate new expectations and ideas.”
Those who have been diagnosed with asbestos have a right to compensation for the damage that has been done to them, but it often takes a passionate and aggressive attorney to break down the barriers that the asbestos company will try to build against their ability to get justice. At Danziger & De Llano, we use our experience and resources to stand up against asbestos companies, and make a real difference in your ability to get the compensation you deserve. Call us today to learn more.
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