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Monday, October 14, 2019

Arizona Supreme Court: Defendants in secondary asbestos exposure cases should not be held liable

By Kasey Schefflin-Emrich | May 13, 2018

PHOENIX – The Arizona Supreme Court has ruled companies should not be held liable for damages allegedly related to secondary asbestos exposure.

The plaintiffs, the family of Ernest V. Quiroz Jr., in the Quiroz v. Alcoa case claim Reynolds Metal Company, which was acquired by Alcoa in 2000, is responsible for the October 2014 death of Quiroz.

The lawsuit states Quiroz’s father worked at Reynolds Metal Company from 1948 through 1983 and would come home with asbestos fibers on his clothing. Quiroz later died from mesothelioma, a form of cancer associated with exposure to asbestos.

“The family asserts that Reynolds had a duty to protect Quiroz from exposure to take-home asbestos,” the ruling states. “They contend Reynolds breached this duty by failing to warn father about the dangers of secondary asbestos exposure. The family also alleges that Reynolds failed to provide safety equipment to father and failed to take necessary safety measures to protect Quiroz from such exposure.”

According to the ruling, while there were several federal statues regulating asbestos enacted after 1970, none of them were cited by the plaintiffs as a public policy basis giving rise to a duty for secondary asbestos exposure.

“We hold that the employer owed no duty to the public regarding secondary asbestos exposure,” the ruling states. “No common law special relationship existed requiring the employer to protect the public from secondary asbestos exposure. Additionally, plaintiffs/appellants have identified no public policy giving rise to such a duty.”

The ruling further says the plaintiffs failed to identity a valid public policy to create a legal relationship giving rise to a duty, and that Arizona law has removed foreseeability from the duty framework and thus can’t be used to establish duty.

Five justices supported the ruling in favor of Reynolds, with two dissenting. Those dissenting opined that children have a greater right to be protected than does the adult population.

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