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North Dakota High Court Rejects “Take-Home” Asbestos Claim

In a case of first impression that may clarify the duty of care in secondary exposure claims in North Dakota, the state’s highest court rejected claims based on childhood exposure to asbestos brought home on an insulation worker’s clothing.  See Palmer v. 999 Quebec, Inc., 2016 ND 17 (N.D. Jan. 14, 2016).

Plaintiff was the surviving spouse of Gary Palmer, who alleged his mesothelioma was caused by childhood exposure to dust that his father inadvertently brought home from his job installing asbestos insulation in the 1960s.  Defendant, the former employer of Palmer’s father, argued it owed Palmer no duty of care because there was no special relationship between Defendant and Palmer, nor was Palmer’s injury foreseeable. 

The North Dakota Supreme Court agreed with Defendant.  It noted that negligence cases in the state historically “have focused on both foreseeability of the injury and the relationship of the parties in deciding whether a duty exists,” with more recent case law focusing on the relationship.  Id. at ¶¶  15–16.  Here, the Court found Palmer had not shown either that Defendant knew of the hazards of secondary asbestos exposure at the time of the exposure or that he had a special relationship with Defendant.  Therefore, the Court held, Palmer’s claims fell short regardless of whether the Court focused on foreseeability, relationship of the parties, or a combination of both.

© 2020 Beveridge & Diamond PC National Law Review, Volume VI, Number 43
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Graham C. Zorn Environmental, Toxic Tort, Products Liability Litigation Attorney Beveridge & Diamond Washington, DC
Principal

Graham Zorn focuses his practice on environmental, toxic tort, and products liability litigation.

His representative experience includes extensive work on a series of complex products liability and toxic tort cases related to alleged groundwater, and litigation over lead in drinking water. He has represented individual businesses, trade associations, and municipalities in litigation, as well as in compliance, enforcement, and counseling matters involving the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, CERCLA and other state and federal environmental statutes. He also counsels domestic and...

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Daniel M. Krainin Environmental Litigation Attorney Beveridge & Diamond New York, NY
Principal

Dan deploys more than two decades of environmental litigation experience to resolve clients’ legal and business challenges.

Primarily focused on environmental and toxic tort litigation, Dan helps clients successfully resolve groundwater contamination, hazardous waste site remediation, natural resource damages, permit defense and product-related matters. He enjoys using his skills as a litigator to help clients solve environmental problems.

Among his many wins, Dan successfully led a team that defeated an emergency challenge to a permit that Dan’s client needed to continue its...

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