Monday, August 27, 2007


Workers Who Bring Asbestos Home

Bergman & Frockt: Families of Workers Who Bring Asbestos Home On Work Clothes May Now File Their Own Claims Against the Worker's Employer

The Washington State Court of Appeals establishes a precedent that may finally allow thousands of Puget Sound family members to seek their own relief

SEATTLE, Aug. 27 /PRNewswire/ -- A Washington State Court of Appeals decision paved the way for claims to be filed on behalf of individuals exposed to deadly asbestos fibers brought into the home by thousands of Washington workers. The decision overturned a lower court ruling and set a precedent that could allow hundreds of family members and others living in the same home to file their own claims.

"For decades, people working with or around asbestos products brought deadly fibers home on their clothing, thereby exposing their families to cancerous materials," explains Seattle attorney Matthew Bergman. "Until now it has been very difficult for individuals who develop asbestos-related diseases as a result of household exposures to pursue a claim against the employer, even though the hazards of asbestos were well documented by the early 1950s. This ruling gives new hope to family members suffering from diseases caused by asbestos exposure."

"There is not a day that goes by that I don't wish I could go back and change things," says Lawrence Rochon, whose wife Adeline was diagnosed with mesothelioma in November 2004 and passed away soon after. "My wife was a wonderful woman who took pride in caring for her family. She didn't deserve to die in such a horrible way."

Adeline Rochon was a mother of seven who dutifully fulfilled the household chores during her 49-year marriage to Lawrence Rochon. For more than 10 years, Lawrence Rochon worked with and around asbestos containing products while employed at the Scott Paper Mill in Everett. Every night he came home, changed out of his work clothes and Adeline washed them regularly. That simple task may have caused the mesothelioma that eventually took her life.

Kimberly Clark Corporation acquired the Scott Paper Company, including its mill in Everett, in 1996, thereby assuming its legal responsibilities. Kimberly Clark had successfully argued in Snohomish County Superior Court that it had no duty of care to Mrs. Rochon because the potential for harm was not foreseeable. The Washington State Court of Appeals overturned the lower court's ruling. Judge J. Cox wrote in the decision, "Kimberly Clark had a duty to prevent injury from an unreasonable risk of harm it had itself created."

Asbestos was used for decades in the shipbuilding, aluminum and wood products industries. These industries employed hundreds of thousands of workers throughout Washington State from the 1940s through the 1970s. As a result, Washington now has the second highest rate of asbestos related cancer in the nation.

Up to the late 1970s, asbestos was also a common ingredient in joint compounds and ceiling and wall textures, products widely used in commercial and residential construction as well as home remodeling projects.

Asbestos exposure has been linked to several deadly diseases, including asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma, a cancer of chest lining that may take as long as 15-40 years to manifest. Once diagnosed, mesothelioma patients often have only months to live.

About Bergman & Frockt
Bergman & Frockt is a Seattle-based law firm that focuses on representing individuals and families who have been harmed by more powerful interests. The firm built its reputation on serious asbestos diseases claims and is expanding its practice to benzene and predatory lending cases. Matthew Bergman is the firm's managing partner and one of seven lawyers across the nation who recently negotiated a $4 billion national settlement with the Halliburton Corporation for its asbestos liabilities, approximately $30 million of which went to Bergman & Frock clients residing primarily in the Pacific Northwest. Bergman also served on the committee that negotiated a $5.1 billion bankruptcy settlement with Owens Corning that will result in over $50 million in payments to Pacific Northwest victims.

    Matthew Bergman
    Bergman & Frockt
    (206) 200-2606

    Kevin Bush
    Firmani + Associates, Inc.
    (206) 443-9357

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