Maryland Court Rules Asbestos Firms Not Responsible for Family Exposure

July 11, 2013

An asbestos company is not liable for an illness suffered by a woman who became exposed to the hazardous material while doing her grandfather’s laundry in the 1960s, Maryland’s highest court ruled Monday.

The Court of Appeals ruled that Georgia-Pacific Corp. was not obligated to warn relatives of the dangers of asbestos in the 1960s. The court says the hazard was not sufficiently known until federal regulations were issued in 1972 by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The court’s ruling overturns a $5 million verdict to a woman who was diagnosed in 2008 with malignant mesothelioma. Jocelyn Farrar had been exposed while doing her grandfather’s laundry in the late 1960s and fell ill decades later.

Her grandfather, John Hentgen, worked at the Forrestal Building in Washington while construction workers applied Georgia-Pacific drywall cement in 1968 and 1969. According to trial testimony, Hentgen’s work clothes were so caked with the asbestos-containing material that his granddaughter had to shake them out before laundering.

Farrar, a professor of nursing at the University of Maryland, lost a lung to the disease.

The Daily Record reports that a jury in Baltimore found Georgia-Pacific was responsible for $5 million of Farrar’s damages in October 2009. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed that ruling.

Georgia-Pacific sought review by the state’s high court, arguing that it had no duty to warn Hentgen’s household of the danger.

Judge Alan M. Wilner wrote for the high court: “Although the danger to asbestos in the workplace was well-recognized at least by the 1930s, the danger from exposure in the household to asbestos dust brought home by workers … was not made publicly clear until much later.”

The seven-member court ruled unanimously for Georgia Pacific.

Topics Legislation Georgia Maryland

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