Jury awards 89 year-old woman $1.1 million for second hand asbestos exposure from husband’s work clothes.
It’s common knowledge by now that working in and around asbestos can lead to lung cancer, mesothelioma and other serious and often fatal lung disorders. But what’s lesser known is that those that have worked with the deadly substance may have unknowingly exposed their loved ones to asbestos. This exposure can just as easily cause family members to fall ill as it can the worker themselves.
This was exactly what happened to 89 year-old Phyllis Granville from Lynnwood who was awarded $1.1 million after a King County jury found that exposure from asbestos her husband brought home on him from work caused mesothelioma – a rare form of cancer. Mrs. Granville was represented by Bergman Draper Ladenburg (now Bergman Draper Oslund), asbestos and mesothelioma experts, who successfully argued that the second hand asbestos exposure caused her cancer.
Who Was At Fault for Mrs. Granville’s Illness?
The lawsuit was filed against 13 defendants who manufactured and sold floor tiles that her husband Donald worked with as a floor tile installer. Bergman Draper Oslund argued that the manufacturers and distributors knew the tile contained deadly asbestos and was unsafe to work with, but withheld that information. If the risks of the asbestos-containing tile had been made clear to Donald, he could have taken precautions against exposing himself and his wife.
Donald unknowingly exposed his wife of over 70 years to asbestos through his work clothes. After a day of laying tile, he would come home to Phyllis who took care of his work clothes – handling and laundering them – which exposed her on a daily basis to the toxic substance. Even hugging and touching him exposed her to fibers on his clothes, skin and hair. Phyllis says, “I never imagined Donald’s work would ever end up giving me cancer.”
How Is the Asbestos-Caused Illness Affecting Her Life?
Since the onset of symptoms, Phyllis’ health has disintegrated leaving her tethered to an oxygen machine to breathe, unable to leave her home. Her prognosis is grim – mesothelioma is a fatal illness – no treatment will cure it – there is no scenario for recovery. The only question is how long Phyllis will live – likely no more than a few months, perhaps a few years – and what quality of life she will have.
Mesothelioma is a very aggressive cancer that destroys lung tissue and can spread to the heart and abdomen, impairing the functionality of these organs. According to attorney Matthew Bergman, this case was important because “The jury recognized that demonstrable harm has been done to asbestos victims. But more importantly, the verdict shows that asbestos exposure has significantly impacted people who were not present at contaminated work sites at all. We believe that the sites had a present imperative to warn their employees about the risk of asbestos contact and also subsequent dispersion.”
What Happens After the Verdict?
For those stricken with mesothelioma and other asbestos-induced diseases, the last few months or years of their life can be painful and progressively of less quality. Going from housebound to bedridden is the natural progression. Pain medication can address symptoms, but the inevitably of the disease is difficult for many to deal with emotionally.
For Phyllis, she has more to worry about than just herself. She says, “It’s hard enough for us to start battling my mesothelioma, but now Donald is afraid he’s going to contract it too. We’re so thankful Bergman Draper Ladenburg (former partner) helped us to get the verdict.” This settlement will not restore Mrs. Granville to health, but it will make her final months more comfortable and ensure she can have the best medical care.
Bergman says, “We are very pleased we were able to provide the Granvilles some measure of financial security while they fight the effects of this horrible disease.”
Why Is This Verdict Important?
This verdict reflects a milestone in asbestos litigation. Beyond holding those responsible for exposing workers to asbestos, this expands their liability to include family members exposed second-hand. Not only is this important for asbestos cases, but it sends a clear signal to manufacturers of other potentially dangerous products that they will be held liable when they use unsafe materials, don’t protect workers and try to conceal the risks of their products at the cost of human lives.
Bergman added, “This was an extraordinarily difficult case to bring to trial. In most cases, mesothelioma victims had direct exposure to asbestos. While the science is clear that people like Donald can bring it home on clothes and transmit it through hugging his wife, or having her wash his clothes, these concepts are much more difficult to illustrate to a jury.”
How We Are Helping Asbestos Victims
Seattle law firm Bergman Draper Ladenburg (now Bergman Draper Oslund) focuses on representing individuals and families who have been harmed by powerful interests. They built their reputation on serious asbestos disease claims and are expanding their practice to benzene and predatory lending cases.
Matthew Bergman is the firm’s managing partner and one of seven lawyers across the nation who negotiated a $4 billion national settlement with the Halliburton Corporation for asbestos liabilities, approximately $30 million of which went to clients residing primarily in the Pacific Northwest.
If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, contact us to find out what your rights are to a settlement.