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Use of "moon suits" not enough to show negligence in asbestos case

A former hammer shop worker for airplane manufacturing company Boeing will not be able to recover in a civil suit for his asbestos-related injuries, according to a recent appeals court decision. The employee had worked in a hammer shop below a repair area in a Boeing plant. The workers in the repair shop had ventilators and "moon suits" protecting them from the dust from their work, but the man in this case says he was denied protective clothing and told to get back to work when he asked to obtain it.

The man later discovered that the dust was asbestos-laden after he was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2010. He worked for Boeing from 1956 until 1992, and he says he was exposed to the dust in 1985.

An appeals court found that even though the airplane manufacturer utilized protective clothing for some of their employees, that their precaution doesn't prove that they actually knew that there was asbestos. It certainly does indicate that the company suspected there was asbestos, but the court that heard the case disagreed, saying that the man failed to prove that the company knew that the dust from the repairs was certain to cause injuries to others exposed to it.

Under state law in the jurisdiction where this case was filed, the man will have to suffice with workers compensation, which does not provide for punitive damages which compensate victims for pain and suffering. Workers compensation is a no-fault insurance system for employees to gain compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and other economic losses associated with a workplace injury without having to prove that their employer was negligent in any way. In the state where this case was heard and in most other states, workers have a high burden of proving that their employer recklessly disregarded worker safety and exposed them to harm that caused the injury.

Source: Courthouse News Service, "Boeing Gets Off Despite Asbestos 'Moon Suits'" June Williams, Jan. 30, 2013.

Our Illinois law firm helps workers who have been injured by asbestos. More information is available on our asbestos litigation page.

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