Aurora Equipment Not Liable for Caregivers Cancer

Kane County, IL – The number of people who can bring suit against the steel manufacturing company Aurora Equipment Company has been limited by a state appellate court. The Second District Appellate Court published a decision this week, in the wake of a lawsuit brought by the relatives of a woman who had washed asbestos-contaminated clothes for years, and who later contracted and died from mesothelioma. Eva Nelson’s son and husband worked at Aurora Equipment for over 11 years, and were regularly exposed to asbestos dust and fibers during their terms of employment. The men painted, packaged and sold steel equipment. Although Eva Nelson never worked at the plant, she did wash the clothes of her husband and son, and thereby experienced secondhand exposure to the carcinogen. Eva Nelson contracted mesothelioma, a rare but aggressive cancer, the only known cause of which is asbestos exposure as well as colon cancer. She died in January 2004. Attorneys for the Nelson family claimed that the equipment manufacturer put at risk not only the health of those who worked on the premises, but also their relatives and others who might inhale the fibers. The attorneys argued that the company had a duty to guard against injuries that occurred off-site as well as in the work environment itself. Aurora Equipment’s lawyers argued, in contrast, that the company bore no responsibility for a woman with whom they had no contractual relationship. The trial court, although conceding that Eva Nelson’s cancer and consequent death might have been foreseeable by the company, also ruled that to open up litigation to those who had only secondary exposure would be to allow an untenable number of lawsuits against the company. The Supreme Court had previously ruled that a victim of exposure-related disease had to have either been on the property, or experienced a relationship with the company, in order to bring suit against them. Asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral, has been linked to various diseases, including mesothelioma, pleural disease and lung cancer, for many years. It remains extant in numerous buildings and other industrial products across the country, however, and is widely used in other countries. When the asbestos is disturbed in any way, its microscopic fibers are released into the air and can adhere to fabrics. Unless specific precautions, such as using a respirator, are taken, the fibers can easily be inhaled.