A $3.5-million VERDICT in Washington “Take-Home” Asbestos Case

July 28, 2018
A $3.5-million VERDICT in Washington “Take-Home” Asbestos Case

In April 2015, a jury in King County, Washington came to an historic decision on what are known as “take-home” asbestos exposure cases. It awarded three and a half million dollars to the family of a woman who passed away due to mesothelioma incurred through the handling of asbestos-filled clothing. At the time, this was the largest total amount awarded for a case involving “take-home” asbestos even after an appellate court reduced the number by $1 million.

Many cases that involve asbestos-related mesothelioma tend to come from individuals who worked directly with the substance at their place of employment. But, as this instance exemplifies, secondhand exposure to asbestos can be just as harmful.

A Sad Story with a Familiar End

Barbara Brandes was the plaintiff in the King County case and she brought the suit against a variety of companies, including Brand Insulation, Union Carbide, and ARCO. Her husband had worked at the ARCO Cherry Point refinery in Ferndale, Washington, which used products made by the other two companies. Brandes was exposed to asbestos after fibers found their way into her husband’s clothing.

In fact, Brandes’ daughter, Ramona (a public defender in the area), distinctly recalled her mother shaking out her father’s work clothes on a regular basis. What may have looked like harmless dust, however, actually turned out to be carcinogenic toxins. Ramona also noted that the refinery was ill-equipped to handle asbestos exposure. It only maintained 4 showers for its 200 employees, meaning that most workers had to wait several hours before being able to adequately clean themselves of asbestos dust and debris. On top of that, laundry services were non-existent.

With no laundry service, clothes that were riddled with asbestos would have to be taken home. That’s how Barbara Brandes ended up being exposed. It may not seem as if laundry could be a life-threatening activity, but it certainly can be if those clothes have come into contact with asbestos.

Timeline of the Illness

Brandes initially began feeling ill in February 2014. This led to a mesothelioma diagnosis in June of that year. She was given a prognosis of just one year. Despite her worsening health, Brandes attended court hearings regularly up until her passing in April 2015. She was preceded in death by her husband Raymond, who suffered from the lesser condition of asbestosis and passed in January of that year.

There is no question that a mesothelioma diagnosis can be heartbreaking. This is especially true when the patient never actually worked with asbestos directly. Even so, there are thousands of cases of secondhand exposure to asbestos that ultimately lead to mesothelioma. Workers who were simply trying to provide for their families had no idea that the toxins they were bringing home could harm the ones they loved the most.

While it is unfortunate, the Brandes case proves that justice can be served even if it does not bring a loved one back. Spouses and children exposed to asbestos deserve the same protections of those who worked directly with the substance.

If you or a family member has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, call or email us for a free consultation.