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Pennsylvania Court Raises Bar for Asbestos Testimony

Mesothelioma is a rare and always fatal form of cancer that is caused by exposure to asbestos. The majority of mesothelioma victims are people who worked with or around asbestos, a material found in nature that has been used in construction and industrial settings for years. The use of asbestos was effectively banned in the 1980s in the United States, but because mesothelioma is a disease with a very long latency period, there are thousands of people who were exposed prior to the ban, as well as from products that contain asbestos that are still in use, who will not be diagnosed for years to come.

Many of these victims have chosen to pursue product liability lawsuits against the manufacturers and employers who exposed them to asbestos despite knowing that the product was dangerous, and billions of dollars have been awarded over the years in compensation for the medical expenses, pain and suffering that they have endured. These cases continue to be heard today.

Asbestos companies and their attorneys put up vigorous defenses against mesothelioma lawsuits. In a recent case heard in front of the Pennsylvania Superior Court, a decision was made by the judges that raises the bar for the submission of witness testimony. Attorneys representing clients in what are known as toxic tort cases (cases involving exposure to hazardous materials), testimony from former coworkers about the presence of the dangerous material has been permitted, and has often been deemed to be powerfully persuasive to juries. The court ruled, however that in order for a witness affidavit to defeat summary judgement for a defendant, the testimony can not only reflect belief that the product contained asbestos – there must be actual knowledge. Further, there must be a demonstration that the plaintiff was regularly, frequently and proximately exposed to the asbestos-containing product.

The case that created this decision involved a now-deceased bricklayer who was occupationally exposed to asbestos and who developed and later died of mesothelioma. The victim’s family filed suit against 49 defendants, many of whom moved for summary judgement based on insufficient product identification. When the family brought in former coworkers to testify, the court ruled that the testimony was insufficient because it did not meet the specific standard of proof that was required to show that the defendants or their products were at fault.

Terri Oppenheimer

Terri Oppenheimer is an independent writer, editor and proofreader. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. Her dreams of a writing career were diverted by a need to pay her bills. She spent a few years providing copy for a major retailer, then landed a lucrative career in advertising sales. With college bills for all three of her kids paid, she left corporate America for a return to her original goal of writing. She specializes in providing content for websites and finds tremendous enjoyment in the things she learns while doing her research. Her specific areas of interest include health and fitness, medical research, and the law.

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