Employers have argued for decades that their duty of care when it comes to exposure to toxic substances, such as asbestos, ends with their workers and is restricted to their own physical premises. The courts have largely accepted this argument, ruling in favor of employers who have been sued in personal injury or wrongful death cases by family members and others who were exposed to substances brought home on workers’ clothing.
The Supreme Court of California, however, has recently ruled that a business can be held liable in this situation. The court declared that when a substance is known to have toxic effects, it’s foreseeable that a worker can carry that substance off-site on his or her clothing and cause others to be exposed to it. Employers have a duty of reasonable care to make sure that this doesn’t happen, and they can be held liable when they don’t meet this duty and someone off their premises is harmed by material that originated there.
Asbestos Specifically at Issue
The Court had two cases before it, each involving the death of a family member who became ill after long–term secondary exposure to asbestos. Just as secondary smoke from cigarettes can cause harm, the second-hand exposure to asbestos in a person’s clothing can be a danger to others.
While the danger of asbestos has been known for a very long time, and the use of it has been scaled back or ended in many applications, serious health effects can take years to manifest. It’s estimated that even today between 12,000 and 15,000 people die each year of asbestos-related ailments such as mesothelioma. Some of them, as in the cases reviewed by the Court, did not even work directly with asbestos but were exposed second-hand through a spouse or relative.
Extension of Liability
The Court decided unanimously that many issues are at play in cases like this, but that certain principles apply in all cases. The physical boundaries of an employer or premises owner do not limit liability, for example, nor does a worker at a site have to be an explicit employee of the business in question. The duty of care, the Court stated, also applies whether the lawsuit involves a claim of negligence or a claim of premises liability; the responsibility of an employer or owner should be treated the same in either situation.
Orange County Premises Liability and Workplace Injury Lawyer
Legal cases of premises liability often involve simple issues, such as broken sidewalks or unsafe structures or other obviously dangerous conditions which have led to an injury. But sometimes there are more complex considerations, as this decision shows.
If you or a loved one have been harmed while on another’s property by hazardous conditions that should have been corrected, it’s important to enlist the aid of an experienced premises liability and workplace injury attorney to press your claim. Dickson Kohan & Bablove, LLP understands these cases, whether it’s something as simple as a fall down an unlighted set of stairs or as complex as a take-home asbestos toxicity case. Give us a call today at 1-844-404-2400 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation to discuss your situation.