Whether an employer owes a duty to a worker’s household member who develops mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos fibers carried home on work clothes has been a highly contested issue.
There have been several cases across the country in which compensation has been sought for family members who, for example, laundered work clothes contaminated with asbestos and later developed mesothelioma. Fortunately for New Orleans families, Louisiana courts have tended to extend the right to pursue damages to family members who contract this deadly disease.
In Zimko v. Am. Cyanamid, So. 2d 465 (La. 4th Ct. App. 2005), the defendant was being sued on behalf of an employee’s household member who contracted mesothelioma as a result of exposure to asbestos fibers carried home on the employee. The Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals found that the employer’s “duty is the general duty to act reasonably in view of the foreseeable risks of danger to household members of its employees resulting from exposure to asbestos fibers carried home on its employee’s clothing, person, or personal effects.” As a result, compensation could be pursued on behalf of the injured household member. This ruling was later expanded by the Fourth Circuit in Chaisson v. Avondale Indus., Inc., 947 So. 2d 171 (La. 4th Ct. App. 4 Cir. 2006), in which the court ruled that the employer owed a duty to a worker’s wife to guard her against household exposure to asbestos when laundering her husband’s work clothes. This was a case that our firm tried and successfully handled on appeal.
In 2009, the United States District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana extended this line of reasoning to include non-household members. In Catania v. Anco Insulations, Inc., CIV.A. 05-01418-JJB, 2009 WL 1390827 (M.D. La. May 14, 2009), the court ruled that compensation might be pursued on behalf of a niece who was not a member of the household but regularly laundered her uncle’s work clothes.
If you, or a loved one, is suffering from mesothelioma and you have any questions regarding your legal rights, please reach out to us at (504) 581-6411 or 855-GERTLER. We would be happy to help you.