Last year we wrote about an Illinois asbestos case that addressed the issue of whether an employer could be liable to the spouse of an employee who contracted mesothelioma cancer from asbestos found on the work clothes worn home by the employee. In Simpkins v. CSX Corp., No 5-07-0346, the Fifth District of the Appellate Court of Illinois concluded that the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty to protect her from “take-home exposure” to asbestos, but noted that the finding of a duty does not amount to a finding of liability and that the plaintiff would still have to prove her case in court. Just last month, the Fourth District of the Appellate Court of Illinois considered the a similar issue in Rodarmel v. Pnuemo Abex L.L.C.,Â No. 4â€“10â€“0463–namely, whether, during the 1950s, the employer owed a duty to the wife of an employee to warn her of the dangers of asbestos brought home on clothing. In Rodarmel, the court focused on the issue of whether a duty to warn was owed. In reaching its decision, it analyzed what was known about the hazards of asbestos in the 1950s and came to the opposite conclusion of the court in Simpkins on the issue of foreseeability. Specifically, the court concluded that the risk of sustaining injuries from asbestos on clothing worn in the factory and then worn home wasn’t foreseeable and thus the defendant didn’t owe the plaintiff a duty: (Defendant) owed Juanita Rodarmel no duty, in the period of 1953 to 1956, to warn her against the danger of asbestos carried home on clothing (in contrast to the danger of intensive exposure to asbestos in factories). Our reason for so holding is that in 1953 through 1956, the infliction of illness merely from asbestos carried home on clothing was not reasonably foreseeable, given what was known during that period….Therefore, we hold that Abex, like Honeywell, was entitled to a judgment notwithstanding the verdict, not only because of a lack of duty but also because of a lack of evidence on the agreement element of a civil conspiracy. Perhaps the contrary holdings can be explained by the different time frames at issue. In Rodarmel, the exposure occurred from 1953-56, whereas in Simpkins it occurred from 1958-64, when, presumably, more was known regarding the harmful effects of exposure to asbestos. However, Simpkins wasn’t referenced in the Rodarmel decision so it’s difficult to[READ MORE…]
In 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency declared a public health emergency arising from the long term asbestos exposure of Libby, Montana residents. The exposure occurred due to the operation of a vermiculite mine in Libby from the 1920s to 1990. Earlier this month, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced that people residing in and near Libby that suffered from certain medical conditions would be eligible for Medicare under the Affordable Care Actâ€™s â€œExposure to Environmental Health Hazardsâ€ provision and could thus participate in a new Medicare Pilot Program for Asbestos-Related Disease. In order to qualify for the program, applicants must: 1) qualify for Medicare under the Affordable Care Actâ€™s â€œExposure to Environmental Health Hazardsâ€ provision; 2) live in Lincoln or Flathead County, Montana; 3) have Medicare Part A (hospital insurance); and 3) have Medicare Part B (medical insurance). The program is designed to provide services that Medicare would not usually cover by offering comprehensive, coordinated health care coverage for those detrimentally affected by the asbestos exposure. As explained in thisÂ NBC news article, the pilot program will cover the following services not normally covered by Medicare: Special home care services Special medical equipment Help with travel to get care Special counseling, for example, help quitting smoking Nutritional supplements Prescription drugs not covered by Medicare drug plans (Participants in the Pilot Program must be in a Medicare drug plan to receive this benefit). This is a very interesting development and many are carefully following the progress of this innovative pilot program. Asbestos-related illnesses are quite serious–even deadly– and can severely limit the quality of life of those affected. Programs like this one are a promising development and have the potential to positively affect the lives of those suffering from the after effects of asbestos exposure. Howard Ankin of Ankin Law Office LLC (www.ankinlaw.com) handlesÂ workersâ€™ compensation and personal injury cases. Mr. Ankin can be reached at (312) 346-8780 and email@example.com .
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