Pennsylvania High Court Gives Public Employees Right to Hold Employers Accountable for Mesothelioma Diagnosis

Public workers in Pennsylvania recently scored a major victory after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that state employees can hold their employers accountable for failing to take reasonable steps to prevent asbestos exposure. Typically, state agencies are immune from civil suits under the doctrine of “sovereign immunity” which generally bars claims against the state for certain injuries.

In their ruling for Geier v. Board of Public Education of the School District of Pittsburgh, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld an Allegheny County trial judge’s ruling that state employees can file mesothelioma cancer lawsuits against the governmental entities they work for. Until recently workers could still bring third party claims against other defendants like asbestos companies but were barred from filing claims against other entities like school districts.

The ruling came in part from an earlier case from 2013, Tooey v. AK Steel, that involved a complicated application of the state’s workers’ compensation laws. Under Tooey, injured workers barred from filing claims under Pennsylvania’s workers’ compensation laws could bring civil suits to recover for their damages like medical bills and lost wages.

Plaintiff Diagnosed with Mesothelioma Over 50 Years After Exposure

The plaintiff in Gier worked at South High School in Pittsburg as a math teacher from 1958 to 1959, where she claims to have been exposed to asbestos from insulation covering steam and water pipes in the school’s highways. In 2013, the plaintiffs received a mesothelioma diagnosis and ultimately succumbed to her condition three years later.

While attorneys for the school district claimed sovereign immunity in the case, the lower court judge ruled the school district’s failure to provide a safe workplace constituted one of the limited exceptions to the state’s Tort Claims Act. In her testimony, the plaintiff identified several instances in which maintenance workers clearly used products containing asbestos and this constituted a violation of its legal duty to maintain its property.

In its opinion, the court noted the plaintiff “sufficiently alleged a dangerous condition of PBE’s utility service facilities and real property substantially contributed to decedent’s mesothelioma and ultimate death.” The plaintiff’s attorneys believe the case could open the door to even more claims against school districts that failed to take care of their employees and students.

Although the plaintiff passed away from her condition before the court handed down this latest ruling, the suit was none the less important to holding wrongdoers accountable and ensuring others have legal avenues to pursue justice. Depending on the circumstances of the case and jurisdiction, surviving family members of mesothelioma cancer victims have their own legal options to bring claims for the loss of their loved ones.

Nationwide Mesothelioma Cancer Lawyer

If you or a loved one were diagnosed with mesothelioma, contact our office to speak to one of our experienced nationwide mesothelioma attorneys about your situation. Our office can help investigate your case and determine if compensation can be sought from negligent parties to help pay for your medical treatment to help you and your family live a more comfortable life.

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