Are You a Foreseeable Victim in Your Boston Mesothelioma Case? See Simpkins v. CSX Corp.

March 26, 2012

In our daily lives we can be oblivious to the potential harms around us. If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma you might wonder how you were exposed to asbestos and not have know the potential harms.
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Having a Boston mesothelioma attorney is critical to getting the award you deserve. Our attorneys have the experience and tenacity to identify the proper arguments and parties in your Boston mesothelioma case.

Simpkins v. CSX is a case where the plaintiff's husband was exposed to asbestos daily while working for the defendant. Upon returning home from work each night, there was asbestos residue on his clothing. This caused his wife to inhale this asbestos and subsequently suffer from mesothelioma. Plaintiff sued her husband's former employer claiming negligence, wanton and willful conduct and strict liability.

In a case for negligence, the plaintiff has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence all of the elements of negligence. Plaintiff has to prove that the defendant had a duty to the plaintiff, the defendant breached that duty, the breach of duty was the direct and proximate cause of the plaintiff's injuries, and the plaintiff suffered damages. Simpkins argues that as to her negligence claim, the defendants failed to take the proper precautions to protect plaintiff's husband and their family from the potential "take-home asbestos exposure."

Strict liability is an imposition of liability where the defendant is engaged in ultrahazardous activity. Plaintiff argued that the defendants should be held liable because they were engaged in activities with products containing asbestos.

On the other hand, CSX claimed that no liability can be imposed on them because they did not owe any duty to a third party non-employee who was exposed to asbestos, like the plaintiff. Furthermore, plaintiff was not an employee of the defendant and had never been on the work premises. Because of this lack of a direct relationship between the plaintiff and defendant, defendant argues they had no duty to plaintiff.

This conflict over whether there was a duty involved in this case led the court to analyze the entire concept of duty. In order to do this, the court looked to public policy in their consideration of the relationship between the plaintiff and the defendant. The court cites prior case law where this relationship is further analyzed and divided into four separate components. These components are: the reasonable foreseeability of the plaintiff's injury, the likelihood of the injury, the amount effort needed to protect from injury, and the consequences of placing this burden of prevention on the defendant.

What is crucial in this case is the general rule that states that there is no duty to rescue a stranger. However, where there is a special relationship a duty to take these affirmative actions can be created. But the court here explains that the relationship between the plaintiff and the defendant does not constitute as one of these four special relationships.

Plaintiff in this case proved that her husband worked for defendants and that plaintiff's husband was exposed to asbestos. Plaintiff also showed that it was reasonable to find that her husband carried this asbestos home on his clothing. However, she failed to prove that the defendant knew or should have known that there was an unreasonably high risk of harm to the plaintiff. To prove this, plaintiff would have had to show specific facts that would prove that the defendant had actual or constructive knowledge of this risk of harm to plaintiff.

Illinois Supreme Court in this case found that in this cause of action for negligence the main issue was whether the defendants could have reasonably foreseen that their actions could cause the plaintiff's injuries. Basically, the defendant's owe a duty of care to foreseeable victims.

In analysis, the plaintiff did prove that the defendant's acts or omissions contributed to the risk of harm to the plaintiff. However the second part of the duty analysis rests on the four components of the relationship discussed above. Because plaintiff did not prove that her injuries were foreseeable this court found her pleadings insufficient and they remanded it to the lower court for further proceedings.

There are so many components to every theory in every area of law. Having an experienced attorney guiding you can give you the peace of mind you need to concentrate on your health.

The Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman provides representation for victims exposed to asbestos who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma in Boston and throughout Massachusetts and New England. Call 1-877-617-5333 for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Simpkins v. CSX Corp., No. 110662 (S.CT IL Mar. 22, 2012).

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