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Philadelphia Mesothelioma Lawyers: Bystander Exposure to Asbestos

A recent court ruling in California’s Court of Appeal may have just changed the way mesothelioma cases are won. In Schiffer v. CBS, the plaintiff claimed he was exposed to asbestos containing materials during installation of equipment and insulation manufactured by Westinghouse, CBS Corporation’s predecessor in 1969.

Details of the Case

James Schiffer, the Plaintiff, worked for Ginna Gas and Electric in their power plant in the summer of 1969. Schiffer claimed that while he was employed for the two companies in question, he was exposed to asbestos from the various materials in the air during the installation of equipment. The plaintiff also alleged that the insulation was manufactured by Westinghouse, which is now the CBS Corporation. Schiffer later developed mesothelioma, which led to he and his wife filing a lawsuit against several entities related to his employment he claims exposed him to asbestos, including CBS. CBS successfully moved for summary judgment based on the claim that Mr. Schiffer failed to submit evidence that he was actually exposed to asbestos containing materials.

The Appeal

On appeal, the California Court of Appeal determined that while Schiffer was in the building and frequently observed the installation of insulation, he could not present legally sufficient evidence of exposure to the contaminated material. Furthermore, the court stated that there was not enough evidence to support the insulations was actually supplied by Westinghouse. Finally, the court found that Schiffer’s own expert’s testimony did not support the finding of causation because the expert considered an “incomplete universe of information.” Therefore, the Court upheld the lower courts finding.

The Analysis

In order to prove medical implications of asbestos exposure, one must answer the following questions: (1) how frequently were you expose to the asbestos? (2) How regular was the exposure? And (3) how close were you to the asbestos product? All three answers must align to have a successful link between asbestos exposure and mesothelioma.

In this case, it was evident that Mr. Schiffer was in the general vicinity of the asbestos. It is also clear that he was in the general area frequently and on a regular basis, meeting two of the three points discussed above. However, it is also fairly clear that he did not have direct contact with the contaminated substances. In the past, the mere presence of the contaminated products may have been enough to prove the cause of the mesothelioma is directly related. However, the new precedence set forth by this case creates a new definition of proximity. Based on this finding, it may now have to be proven that the plaintiff had direct contact as opposed to mere exposure with a contaminated substance to prove liability. Furthermore, this case shows the importance of a client to provide his expert with all available information or risk losing his case.

Philadelphia Mesothelioma Lawyers at Brookman, Rosenberg, Brown & Sandler Help and Advocate for Asbestos-Related Patients

Philadelphia asbestos lawyers at Brookman, Rosenberg, Brown & Sandler have a long history of fighting for compensation to ensure mesothelioma patients are able to pay for the medical treatment they deserve after being exposed to asbestos by a negligent employer. Call 800-369-0899 or contact us online in order to schedule a free consultation. With offices in Center City Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout the Delaware Valley including Philadelphia and New Jersey.