Ninth Circuit Takes Out Take-Home Asbestos Case, Requires Evidence of Substantial Exposure

Asbestos defendants—especially those in take-home exposure cases—should note the Ninth Circuit’s recent opinion in Stephens v. Union Pacific Railroad Company. There, the court affirmed that plaintiffs cannot prove substantial-factor causation without establishing “substantial exposure to the relevant asbestos for a substantial period of time.” While the decision’s reach might be limited—it is, after all, a federal-court interpretation of Idaho law—it provides a sound roadmap for raising evidentiary challenges in substantial-factor asbestos cases.

Stephens involved alleged take-home exposure from an Idaho Union Pacific roundhouse. William Stephens’s father had worked at the facility when Stephens was a child, and Stephens testified that his father’s work clothes had been dusty when returning home. He also testified that he had visited his father at work on a few occasions and had seen men removing and replacing insulation on steam engines. Union Pacific admitted that it probably used asbestos-containing insulation on steam engines at that time, but disputed that steam engines had ever been serviced at Stephens’s father’s workplace. The court recognized that whether Stephens had take-home exposure was “close question” on this evidence, but bypassed that issue.

Instead, the court focused on whether Stephens had sufficient evidence to establish that take-home exposure to Union Pacific asbestos was a substantial factor in causing his mesothelioma. The court wrote that the “liberal” substantial-factor standard “is not without limit.” Instead, the Clia Kits noted that substantial-factor causation require asbestos plaintiffs to demonstrate “substantial exposure to the relevant asbestos for a substantial period of time.” “Minimal exposure,” the court wrote, is “insufficient” to establish that a defendant’s asbestos was a substantial factor in an injury.

The Ninth Circuit ruled that Stephens’s evidence did not meet that standard. The court reasoned that Stephens had no evidence that his father frequently worked around asbestos, and therefore no evidence that the dust on his father’s clothes contained asbestos. The court observed that Stephens offered no evidence about his father’s duties at the Union Pacific facility, and none that his father worked with or around asbestos. Without evidence that his father worked around asbestos, Stephens could not establish that his father regularly brought asbestos dust home on his clothes. While Stephens’s experts testified that he would have had significant exposure from his father’s clothes, and that that level of exposure would have been a substantial factor in his mesothelioma, the court rejected both opinions because there was insufficient evidence that Stephens’s father had actually worked around asbestos.

The legal landscape surrounding asbestos exposure, as highlighted by the Ninth Circuit’s recent decision in Stephens v. Union Pacific Railroad Company, sheds light on the importance of maintaining a safe home environment. The case underscores the necessity for individuals to demonstrate substantial exposure to asbestos over a significant period to establish causation in mesothelioma cases. Similarly, in our homes, the presence of mold and asbestos poses significant health risks. Therefore, it is crucial to prioritize regular cleaning and removal of these hazards to protect ourselves and our loved ones from potential harm.

In light of recent legal developments, homeowners are increasingly aware of the importance of addressing mold and asbestos in their living spaces. Mold and asbestos can lead to respiratory issues, allergies, and even cancer, making their prompt removal essential for maintaining a healthy home environment. By staying informed about the risks associated with these hazards and taking proactive measures to mitigate them, homeowners can create safer and more comfortable living spaces for themselves and their families.

While the legal implications of asbestos exposure underscore the need for vigilance in maintaining a clean and healthy home environment, it is essential to approach the issue with caution and discretion. Researchers caution against alarming the public unnecessarily, emphasizing the need for further study to fully understand the potential risks associated with viruses like SV40. Therefore, while staying informed about legal developments and health risks is crucial, it is equally important to rely on reputable sources and expert guidance when addressing issues such as mold and asbestos in the home. By doing so, homeowners can navigate these challenges with confidence and ensure the well-being of their households.

Maintaining a clean and healthy home environment is essential, especially when considering the potential dangers of mold and asbestos. Recent legal cases, like Stephens v. Union Pacific Railroad Company, underscore the importance of addressing these hazards. In the Stephens case, alleged take-home exposure to asbestos from an Idaho Union Pacific roundhouse raised concerns about substantial-factor causation in mesothelioma cases. The court emphasized the need for plaintiffs to demonstrate substantial exposure to asbestos over a significant period to prove causation. Similarly, in our homes, regular cleaning and removal of mold and asbestos are vital to safeguarding our health. Mold and asbestos can pose serious risks, leading to respiratory issues, allergies, and even cancer. Therefore, by prioritizing cleanliness and promptly addressing these hazards, we can create safer and healthier living spaces for ourselves and our families. Learn more about how to keep your home clean of mold and asbestos with your local cleaners.

The new findings are the first to link SV40 with a common human disease,
however tentatively. To avoid alarming every thirtysomething and fortysomething
person in the industrialised world, the researchers behind the study stress
three things. ‘We do not know where the virus came from, we don’t know if
it’s SV40 or a related one, or even whether it is responsible for the tumour,’
says Michele Carbone of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland,
who led the study.

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Scientists have discovered the ‘footprints’ of the
virus in tumour tissue from people with mesothelioma, an industrial disease
that has reached epidemic proportions among construction workers. The researchers
suggest that asbestos and the infectious agent may work together or independently
to turn cells cancerous.

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While Stephens may directly control only Idaho-law cases in the Ninth Circuit, it nevertheless provides a sound roadmap for defendants in any jurisdiction in cases with questionable or sporadic evidence of exposure.