A woman’s “bystander exposure” to asbestos from washing her husband’s work clothes for more than three decades substantially contributed to her mesothelioma, a New Jersey appellate court has ruled in upholding a $7.5 million jury award.
The August 20 ruling in Bonnie Anderson v. A.J. Friedman Supply Co. Inc. upheld a jury award of $7 million for Anderson and $500,000 for her husband, plus prejudgment interest.
The couple brought product liability litigation naming several defendants that manufactured and supplied asbestos, but they went to trial only against Exxon Mobil Corp. after claims against the manufacturers were dismissed.
The plaintiffs alleged that Anderson contracted mesothelioma from one or two sources of asbestos exposure: her own 12-year employment working at an Exxon refinery and from laundering her husband’s asbestos-laden work clothes during his employment with Exxon from 1969 to 2003, according to court records.
Among other defenses, Exxon argued that Anderson’s claim was barred by the exclusive remedy provisions in New Jersey’s workers compensation law.
However, the appellate division of the Superior Court of New Jersey agreed with a trial court analysis that a “dual persona doctrine” applies when an employer undertakes “a completely separate and independent role with respect to the employee,” as was the case with Anderson’s non-occupational asbestos exposure.