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Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals rules that Alabama law imposes a duty on employers to protect employees' families from "take-home asbestos exposure"

On April 26, 2017, in Bobo v. Tennessee Valley Authority, No. 15-15271, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, affirmed a trial court’s verdict in favor of an Alabama plaintiff who allegedly contracted mesothelioma from exposure to asbestos over years of washing the clothes of her husband, an employee of the defendant who was determined to have been routinely exposed to asbestos in the workplace. On appeal, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals noted that while Alabama courts have not addressed the issue of whether a duty exists to prevent “take-home asbestos exposure,” courts in California, Louisiana and Tennessee had found that such a duty exists on the basis of a foreseeability analysis. Courts construing Texas and Kentucky law also recognized the appropriateness of a foreseeability analysis but determined that, under the specific facts presented take-home asbestos exposure was not foreseeable. However, in ten other states (Florida has not yet ruled on this issue) take-home asbestos exposure has been rejected judicially or by enactment of statutes. The Eleventh Circuit noted that it generally presumes an adherence to the majority rule in the absence of evidence to the contrary, but the Court found such evidence in the Alabama courts’ traditional reliance on a foreseeability analysis. The Court noted that courts in most of the majority rule jurisdictions relied on other factors in determining duty, such as the relationship of the parties.

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