The New Jersey State Supreme Court has unanimously decided that liability
for exposure to toxic substances in the workplace may extend beyond an
affected employee’s spouse. According to
NJ Spotlight, the decision expands the scope of a 10-year-old ruling involving the
case of a Pennsylvania husband and his wife who was sickened from exposure
to toxic substances.
In the original case, the wife of a ceramic worker was diagnosed with chronic
beryllium disease, an incurable condition affecting lung tissue, due to
second-hand exposure to asbestos and beryllium from her husband’s
clothing. The lawsuit, which was initially filed in the Pennsylvania state
court but moved to federal jurisdiction, accused the man’s employer
of product liability based on the theory of take-home toxic-tort liability.
However, because the man’s job with the ceramics company predated
his marriage to his wife, and because neither New Jersey or Pennsylvania
courts recognized the duty of an employer to protect someone who was not
a worker’s spouse, the company’s motion to dismiss the case
was granted. The plaintiffs later appealed this decision to the Third
Circuit, which found that the company could be held liable for her injuries
on the grounds that it should have been foreseeable that the woman would
be handling and laundering the worker’s clothes.
In the current case, the court has found that liability may extend beyond
the spouse of a worker injured by a toxic substance in proper circumstances.
Factors that may be considered include:
- The relationship between the defendant and the injured person
- The opportunity for exposure to the dangerous substance
- The employer’s knowledge of the risks inherent in exposure
The court specified, however, that there is no hard-and-fast rule in take-home
toxic-tort cases as to who is included and excluded.
If you or a family member has been injured by a toxic substance related
to your workplace, please contact a Philadelphia toxic tort attorney at
Golomb & Honik, P.C. We are prepared to fight tenaciously on your
behalf to help bring you the compensation you deserve.
Call our office at (215) 278-4449 to schedule a consultation, or fill out a brief
online form and we will be in touch with you promptly.