Asbestos is a product that has an interesting history of litigation in Pennsylvania and throughout the rest of the United States. Ever since the harmful effects of asbestos were uncovered, those injured by the product have been forthcoming about their injuries -- particularly where someone is specifically responsible for their injuries. They have typically filed negligence or product liability cases. For those not fortunate enough to survive their injuries, their families also have the opportunity to pursue wrongful death actions.
One wife pursued such a course of action in a Pennsylvania court on behalf of her husband, who she claims suffered injuries from asbestos exposure while on the job. Her husband worked as a sheet metal worker for over 30 years for one company when he eventually contracted mesothelioma. In her complaint, the wife alleged that her husband's condition was the result of his employer's failure to protect him from the dangerous product.
Ultimately, the case proceeded to trial and the wife was awarded a $2.3 million verdict. The defendant employers challenge this verdict, requesting a new trial on the grounds that the plaintiff failed to meet her burden of causation.
When a plaintiff decides to bring a wrongful death action following the loss of a family member due to an asbestos-related condition, there are several elements that must be demonstrated. These include: the defendant had a duty to ensure safety; the defendant breached this duty; this breach caused the decedent's injury; and the injury resulted in damages.
Clearly, causation is an important element. A plaintiff usually has to rely on expert testimony to satisfy this element in such a highly complicated health condition case like one involving asbestos. The expert will need to explain the decedent's condition and what could have caused it. Without this link, a plaintiff cannot make a successful case against the defendant. While it may be difficult to show this relationship, the wife's recent award underscores that it is not impossible.
Source: pennrecord.com, "Phila. judge affirms $2.3 million plaintiff's verdict in asbestos wrongful death case," Jon Campisi, Dec. 5, 2013