CSX Held Liable for Family Member's Mesothelioma Caused by 'Second-Hand' Asbestos

A panel of federal court judges in Illinois (IL) has ruled in favor of the family of a woman who died from mesothelioma most likely caused by asbestos fibers her husband brought home on his clothing during years of "working as a steelworker, welder, railroad fireman and laborer" for CSX, the Madison & St. Cloud Record is reporting. The ruling is in line with other "second-hand" asbestos judgments against insulation and building materials manufacturer Owens-Illinois and contractor Breeding Insulation.

CSX had demanded an appellate court ruling on its liability, arguing that employers should have no responsibility for protecting employees' families. The judges for the Fifth District ruled that the rail company's position held no merit because asbestos fibers cling easily to workers' clothing and it must be assumed that workers' family members will come in contact with contaminated clothes. This ruling essentially means that railroads are not different from other companies that have been found liable for cancers and mesotheliomas of spouses, sons or daughters who contract disease from exposure to a railroad worker's clothing. These companies are proved to have known the main dangers of tiny asbestos fibers -- and that any person inhaling the fine asbestos dust could ultimately be harmed and die from such exposures.

Toxic and carcinogenic asbestos fibers constitute practically the only cause of the deadly cancer mesothelioma. The microscopic fiber become airborne easily and also cause the debilitating breathing disorder asbestosis. While still widespread in insulation materials in older building, boilers, engines and brakes, asbestos is so dangerous that its use has been banned for nearly all industrial or commercial uses in the United States since the late 1970s. Railroad engineers and conductors, car mechanics and even track maintenance workers have developed mesothelioma and various cancers decades after their exposures.

Problems with asbestos were recognized decades before bans were enacted. And having represented several victims of asbestos-related mesothelioma and asbestosis, I know well that the material has ruined many lives. I applaud each court ruling that holds companies responsible for the injuries and deaths their careless use of asbestosis and lack of commitment to protecting workers and members of the public caused. The lesson of asbestos cancers is that the more toxic and dangerous a substance, the more cautiious a company must be to remove the harm.

Richard N. Shapiro
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Personal Injury & Wrongful Death Lawyer Serving Va Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake & all of Virginia
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