When Marianne M. Geier was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, the rare form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, she was asked where she might have been exposed to the carcinogenic material. It did not take long for her to remember the 1958-to-1959 school year when she worked as a substitute teacher at South High School. Remembering asbestos dust leaking from pipe coverings on steam and water pipes in the halls, stairwells, and even her own classroom, she filed a personal injury lawsuit against almost 40 defendants including the Pittsburgh Board of Education. Though the school board tried to evade liability based on being a government agency, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court denied their argument and permitted Mrs. Geier to seek compensation against them for her injuries.
School Board Attempts to Evade Liability for Mesothelioma
Mrs. Geier’s memory of the asbestos exposure that led to her mesothelioma was very clear. She recalled the pipe coverings and repairs that were made in her presence, and maintenance being done on floor and ceiling tiles in her classroom. She remembered piles of asbestos powder and bags of asbestos materials on the floor, and the dangerous dust clinging to her clothing if she brushed up against it.
Court’s Review of Mesothelioma Claim Clarifies Duty of Care Owed to Visitors and Employees Alike
Despite Mrs. Geier’s memories and evidence, the Pittsburgh School Board of Education argued that as a public agency they owed no duty of care to her because of specific protections and exceptions to liability extended to government entities. In reviewing their argument, however, the courts reviewed precedent establishing that an employee of a public agency is owed the same duty of care owed to a visitor to the agency’s building. They also held that a public employer has a common law duty to create reasonably safe conditions of employment. Finally, they concluded that the evidence submitted was sufficient to show that the Pittsburgh Board of Education’s “negligent care, custody or control of its real property had substantially contributed” to Mrs. Geier’s death.
If you or someone you love has been exposed to asbestos in the workplace, experiences like Mrs. Geier’s can help guide your decisions and open doors. For information, contact the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net today at 1-800-692-8608.