The Maryland Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that Georgia-Pacific Corp. was not liable for illness involving a woman who was exposed to asbestos while doing her father’s laundry in the 1960s.
The Insurance Journal reported on the recent decision:
In the decision, available on the website of the Maryland high court (pdf download), the Court explained that it rejected liability because:
The Maryland decision continues the recent trend in rejecting a duty in cases involving secondary exposure. In 2012, California followed Ohio and joined the growing list of states which reject the defendant’s duty to an employee’s family member in “take home asbestos” cases. In an article featured in the DRI's Newsletter and published on May 9, 2014, co-authors Carter E. Strang and Karen E. Ross also noted the jurisdictions which have rejected secondary exposure claims. Since their publication, California and Maryland have joined approximately nine other states in rejecting a duty in secondary exposure cases. Another California court recently came to the same conclusion as the earlier California case in an unreported decision.
However, as Strang and Ross noted in their January 16, 2014 DRI article (pdf download), it is unclear how these cases will play out at the trial level, as a verdict of over $27 million was recently entered in California in a case involving take-home asbestos exposure.
As the National Association of Manufacturers noted, the Maryland Court of Appeals found:
“that there was skimpy knowledge at the time of the danger to household members from asbestos dust brought into the home, and that the company was unable to give warnings directly to such plaintiffs and the warnings would not have had any practical effect. “
Courts nationwide are increasingly rejecting the claims by plaintiffs and their attorneys that seek to impose duties far removed from the allegedly wrongful act. Defense attorneys can and should seek to impose reasonable limits on the issue of duty to those instances in which harm is reasonably foreseeable to the alleged tortfeasor. Raising appropriate defenses in cases involving “take home” claims “household” exposure, or secondary exposure is essential to the defense of toxic tort claims.