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Federal judge rules railroad worker’s mesothelioma lawsuit to be decided by jury

A federal judge in Maine recently denied a defendant’s request to have a mesothelioma cancer lawsuit tossed out on the grounds that the company could not have known about dangerous working conditions alleged by the victim, ruling that the question of foreseeability of injuries should be left for a jury to decide at trial. The defendant, Maine Central Railroad, claimed that it could not have known the victim worked in an environment contaminated with asbestos and therefore could not be held responsible for the victim’s asbestos cancer diagnosis.

According to the plaintiff’s mesothelioma cancer lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Maine under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act, the victim operated the Carlton Bridge which connects a railroad line over the Kennebec River between Bath and Woolwich, Maine, which was owned by the defendant. The plaintiff alleged that the walls of the control room, engine room, and operating room of the bridge would shake when trains passed over it and would create dust in his work station.

The plaintiff’s mesothelioma cancer lawsuit asserted that asbestos containing products were used throughout the construction of the bridge and the areas which the victims worked during his tenure with the company, which was the source of his exposure to asbestos fibers. The victim further pointed to an asbestos inspection and abatement program that Maine Central Railroad initiated in 1984 during the twilight years of the plaintiff’s employment company to show that asbestos was eventually detected in his work areas.

Maine Central Railroad company argued that it was not aware the bridge was constructed with asbestos, as it was built in 1929 under the direction of the Maine Department of Transportation. The company claimed the plaintiff was unable to establish that the defendant could foresee the plaintiff’s risk of injury as required under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act. Further, Maine Central Railroad argued that even if it knew the victim’s work area was constructed with asbestos containing materials and that dust was produced, this level of exposure would not have been sufficient to induce the plaintiff’s mesothelioma cancer.

Fortunately for the plaintiff, the federal judge hearing the case determined that the questions of fact surrounding the case should be left for a jury to decide and that it would be inappropriate for the court to toss out the case so early in the litigation process. The court ruled that it could not “conclude at this stage that it was unforeseeable that harmful asbestos exposure would or could occur in [the plaintiff’s] workspaces at the bridge.”

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