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Illinois Supreme Court Amends Requirements for Asbestos Lawsuits in Favor of Victim’s Rights

Our Chicago personal injury lawyers were fascinated to read a recent article in the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, which stated that the Illinois Supreme Court has ruled that a direct relationship does not need to exist between a company and a person exposed to secondhand asbestos in order for that company to be considered responsible for injuries resulting from exposure.

Chicago asbestos exposure cases are a relatively recent form of workplace injury cases and Illinois personal injury lawsuits. Before the health risks became apparent, asbestos was originally mined to use in construction of buildings. As a building material, it was sound-absorbent, and resistant to heat, fire, and electrical and chemical damage. As a result, manufacturers and builders regularly used it in the 19th century. Many workers were exposed both in the mines and in constructing buildings using asbestos.

Inhalation of asbestos fibers can lead to serious illnesses, such as lung cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma. The greater the exposure to asbestos, the higher the risk of associated health problems. When workers are exposed to asbestos in their work environment, the corporations for which they work may be liable for the injuries they suffer as a result of the asbestos exposure.

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that most often occurs in the thin membrane lining the lungs or abdomen. Approximately 2,000 to 3,000 cases are diagnosed each year in the United States, and this rate is steadily rising. Mesothelioma can appear and progress very rapidly. However, it usually does not manifest itself until several decades after the first exposure to asbestos.

This particular case was brought on behalf of a woman, diagnosed with mesothelioma, who claimed that she had been exposed to asbestos by her husband’s employer, CSX Transportation Inc. The woman’s daughter brought the suit following the woman’s mesothelioma-related death, claiming that the woman came into contact with the asbestos on her husband’s clothes.

According to the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, Illinois Supreme Court Justice Rita B. Garman, writing for the majority, said four factors must be considered to establish that a relationship between the two parties exists and that one party has an obligation to the other party to act in a specific way. The four factors are foreseeability of injury, likelihood of injury, magnitude of the burden of guarding against the injury and the consequences of placing that burden on the defendant. The majority rejected CSX’s argument that a direct relationship must exist between the company and Simpkins for the company to have a duty of care.

This particular holding has the potential to have an enormous impact in future Chicago personal injury cases, making it easier for victims and their families to be compensated for injuries caused by asbestos exposure.

Our attorneys have handled a number of cases involving unsafe work environments that led to worker injuries, including a $5.7 million settlement for a 27-year-old roofer in a workplace injury case who was paralyzed when he fell from a roof as a result of the general contractor’s failure to provide appropriate safety devices.

If you or a loved one have suffered an injury due to asbestos exposure – including secondhand contact – see a doctor immediately for medical treatment. Special laws are in place to protect employees from dangerous work environments, and a personal injury attorney may also be able to help you ascertain your rights under the law.