Rare Secondary Asbestos Exposure Victim Awarded $2.6 Million

The surviving family members of a 93-year-old mesothelioma victim were awarded $2.6 million by a McLean County, IL, jury in a rare case of secondary asbestos exposure.
Mesothelioma is a cancer of the lining of the lungs that is caused by inhaling asbestos fibers or particles. Most victims of the cancer are exposed to asbestos through their jobs, mainly in construction or manufacturing fields, but occasionally cases appear of innocent bystanders who were wrongfully exposed to asbestos by coming into contact with those who directly contacted it. It is even rarer for a lawsuit to be filed from secondary asbestos exposure.

Most asbestos lawsuits stem from direct exposure to the carcinogen, but in the case of the deceased Jean Holmes, she contracted mesothelioma from washing her husband’s clothes, which were covered in asbestos dust. Her husband, Donald Holmes, brought asbestos dust home on his work clothes when he returned home every day from his job at Union Asbestos and Rubber Company in 1962 and 1963. The company later became known as UNARCO. Holmes died in April 2006 of mesothelioma, which her family members claimed that she was never warned could happen from being exposed to asbestos.

The plaintiffs argued in the three-week-long trial that Pneumo Abex LLC and Honeywell International Inc. worked with other companies, including UNARCO, to play down the threat of asbestos exposure to employees and customers. The dangers of asbestos and its carcinogenic properties were prevented from being made known to the public by the defendants, according to the lawsuit.

It took two and a half hours for the jury to agree with the plaintiffs and award Jean Holmes’ surviving sons, Roger and John Holmes, $2.6 million.