Abutahoun v. Dow Chemical Co., a case from the Supreme Court of Texas, involved respondent chemical company, which entered into a contract with victim’s employer to install insulated pipes at respondent’s Texas factory.
Claimant worked on the pipe insulation installation between from 1967 to 1968, and the project involved insulation of thousands of pipes. The pipes on which victim worked contained asbestos-laden insulation material. The pipes also carried acid and vented steam. Victim alleged that, during the course of his employment, he was exposed to deadly asbestos dust. Some of this exposure was a result of respondent’s workers, who were sawing and cutting the pipes in his vicinity. He was also exposed due to his work involving the pipe insulation materials.
During a trial, one witness, a former coworker of victim, testified he was constantly sawing the pipes and that workers who were within 20 feet of his location were in the “asbestos dust area.”
As our Boston mesothelioma attorneys can explain, once the asbestos dust is inhaled into the lungs it can become trapped in a layer of tissue known as the mesothelium. Here, it can metastasize into the deadly form of cancer known as mesothelioma over the 20 to 50 years following asbestos exposure. Asbestos fibers can also cause serious scarring to the lung tissue, and this potentially dangerous asbestos-related disease is known as asbestosis. Asbestos has also been linked with more common forms of lung cancer and other serious respiratory illness.
Many years after working for respondent, his doctor diagnosed him with mesothelioma. He and his wife filed personal injury lawsuit against more than a dozen companies that may have been at least partially responsible for victim’s exposure to asbestos dust and fibers causing his mesothelioma.
Victim eventually died as result of his mesothelioma, and his adult daughter stepped in to handle the mesothelioma injury case as representative of her father’s estate. This is a fairly common situation in mesothelioma cases, since sadly many victims do not survive long enough to get through the entire court process. The court also allowed victim’s minor daughter to join the lawsuit as next of friend to victim. The term next of friend is often used by courts with the same meaning as the term next of kin and is typically associated with minor children who are assisted by an adult guardian during the process.
At this point, respondent moved for summary judgment, asking court to dismiss plaintiffs’ entire cause of action. There were two claims in this matter. The first was that victim was injured as result of respondent’s negligence. The second was victim was injured as a result of negligence of respondent’s employees. For reasons exclusive to a state law provision, trial court dismissed the direct counts against respondent and denied the motion with respect to the other claims, so the case was allowed to proceed to trial.
At the close of evidence, jury awarded plaintiffs more than $2.5 million. Respondent filed an appeal on grounds the motion for summary judgment denial was improper. Based solely upon a state law interpretation, the appeals court reversed trial court’s denial of respondent’s motion for summary judgment.
If you or a loved one is diagnosed with mesothelioma in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at (617) 777-7777.
Abutahoun v. Dow Chemical Co., May 13, 2015, Supreme Court of Texas
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Asbestos Illegally Dumped at Nature Preserve, August 15, 2014, Boston Mesothelioma Lawyers Blog