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I Was Told I Might Not Be Able to Sue My Employer For Exposure To Asbestos At Work. Why?

Asbestos was widely used in New Orleans shipyards and other industries throughout much of the twentieth century.  Unfortunately, this has led to a large number of workers contracting mesothelioma – a frequently fatal cancer caused through inhalation of asbestos particles.  Whether an employer may be pursued through a personal injury lawsuit for this exposure, however, may depend on the timing of the exposure.

This is because in 1975, the Louisiana Legislature changed the laws surrounding when an employee may sue an employer by amending the Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Act.  The Louisiana Worker’s Compensation Act provides that certain work-related injuries may only be compensated through workers’ compensation payments.  Employers are immune from tort suits for such injuries.

Prior to 1975, the Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Act included a list of specific occupational diseases covered under the act.  This list did not include mesothelioma.  In 1975, the list was abandoned in favor of broader language that would encompass additional occupational diseases – including mesothelioma.

This 1975 change, however, does not bar all current cases against employers.  The Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Act has been interpreted to apply to the date of exposure that led to the disease, not the date that a legal remedy is pursued by the injured party.  As a result, if it can be established that a worker developed mesothelioma as a result of exposure to asbestos at work prior to 1975, a negligence claim still may be pursued against the employer.

Given the long latency period frequently seen in cases of mesothelioma, many individuals continue to develop this disease as a result of exposure prior to 1975.  These individuals may pursue a negligence claim against their employer.

Even if you were exposed to asbestos at work after 1975, this does not mean that you should not contact an experienced mesothelioma litigation attorney.  While you may not be able to proceed against your employer, there may be other parties whose negligence led to your condition.

If you or a loved one suffers from mesothelioma, we would be happy to answer your questions.  Please feel free to call us at (504) 581-6411 or 855-GERTLER.