Employer has a duty of care to Asbestos Worker’s family.
MichieHamlett partners Kyle McNew and Greg Webb contributed an amicus brief to the winning argument in a recent Virginia Supreme Court decision. The Court considered whether a company is responsible for mesothelioma, an asbestos cancer, of family members exposed to asbestos brought home on a worker’s clothing.
The case is Wesley Quisenberry, personal representative of the Estate of Wanda Quisenberry, deceased v. Huntington Ingalls Incorporated, Record No. 171494 in the Supreme Court of Virginia.
The Court’s majority agreed with plaintiff Wesley Quisenberry in his suit against Huntington Ingalls Inc., over his mother’s death from mesothelioma, saying Wanda Quisenberry was within reach of Huntington’s conduct when her father came home from working at the shipyard with asbestos fibers on his clothes.
According to Senior Justice LeRoy Millette Jr., the Quisenberrys’ situation is similar to the farmer whose cows wander onto a roadway, as in a case the court has decided before, or a company that dumps chemicals into a body of water. The actions of both the farmer and the company have created a recognizable risk to people who are on the road or in the water, even if they have never interacted before. The asbestos dust that was released through the employer’s conduct placed the family members of asbestos workers in danger because they unwittingly brought the asbestos dust home on their clothing.
The Virginia Supreme Court had never addressed the question of duty arising from asbestos particles transferred from clothing. In Thursday’s decision, the court said the company owed a duty to people impacted by its actions. But more evidence will be required if Quisenberry is going to prove that the shipyard is actually responsible for his mother’s death, the court added.