A family that lost a loved one after she developed mesothelioma through second-hand asbestos exposure will have their day in court after a Louisiana court denied a wallboard company’s request for summary judgment. The deceased (who, for purposes of this article, will be referred to as Mrs. J) died of mesothelioma at the age of 75. Before she died, Mrs. J filed a lawsuit against several companies, accusing them of negligently exposing her to the toxic mesothelioma-causing substance known as asbestos. Though most of the companies the deceased took to court compensated her, one particular company, Hopeman Brothers, Inc., chose to file a motion for summary judgment. The company filed a motion for summary judgment on the basis that Mrs. J had no proof that she had fallen victim to asbestos exposure because of their (Hopeman Brothers Inc.) products.
After Mrs. J died, her daughter continued the lawsuit. Mrs. J’s daughter maintains that her mother developed mesothelioma because of being exposed to asbestos through her grandfather, who used to come home with asbestos-contaminated work clothes. During the years that Mrs. J’s father worked at Avondale Shipyard, he worked in close proximity to Hopeman’s operations involving asbestos-contaminated wallboard. At that time, Mrs. J was still a child, and whenever her father got home, she would shake out his asbestos-contaminated work clothing, clean it, and clean up the asbestos that had accumulated on the floor.
Even though Hopeman accepted that some of their shipbuilding products were asbestos-contaminated, they argued that because Mrs. J’s father only worked on vessels that were pre-launch, he could not have been the one who took home the asbestos fibers and dust that led to his daughter developing mesothelioma. Hopeman claimed that their wallboard was only cut after a ship had been launched, meaning Mrs. J’s father, who worked on pre-launch vessels, could not have been exposed to asbestos. However, Mrs. J’s attorneys managed to present witnesses who said that wallboard was cut pre-launch at Wet Dock No. 2, where Mrs. J’s father had spent a tremendous amount of time cleaning up dust left behind. The witnesses also testified about the huge amount of dust that was generated, confirming that Mrs. J’s father would have carried asbestos fibers home on his work clothing.