Washington State Supreme Court Rules No Workers Comp for Mesothelioma Case
On Thursday, September 18th, the Supreme Court of Washington State found that a worker who died in 2013 of mesothelioma caused by working in one of Boeing’s plants was not eligible for workers comp, as Boeing could not know the conditions would cause the disease.
The workers comp appeal was originally brought forth by Gary Walston, a former employee of Boeing who was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2010. Walston claimed that, while working for Boeing from 1956 to 1992, he was exposed to asbestos at high enough levels over his career to lead directly to the development of mesothelioma.
Walston’s widow continued the lawsuit against Boeing, claiming that the company knew asbestos exposure would lead to her husband’s death. Walston was exposed particularly while working on the line in 1985, when crews began repairing pipe insulation in the ceiling of the shop where he worked. Because the building was old, asbestos was found in the ceiling and removed. However, all of the workers in the shop were exposed, and did not receive proper safety equipment to prevent constant exposure.
However, in a 5-4 decision, justices ruled that Walston’s widow was not eligible for workers comp death benefits, nor would Walston have been eligible for workers comp, as Boeing did not know at the time that asbestos exposure could lead to mesothelioma.
“The only way to deliberately produce the disease of mesothelioma is to intentionally and knowingly cause workers to inhale asbestos,” one of the justices wrote. “It would undermine the purpose of the statute if an employer could implant a ticking time bomb in an employee’s body and escape liability simply because the particular injury that resulted could not be predicted with absolute certainty.”
“Walston’s evidence, including expert testimony that inhaling asbestos causes certain injury to the lungs, raises questions of fact as to whether Boeing knew its employees were being injured and willfully disregarded that knowledge,” wrote a justice for the dissent. “Diseases differ from traditional workplace injuries … There is no way to know with absolute certainty that an exposed individual will even contract a disease. Moreover, most diseases are caused by multiple factors, which can make it difficult to prove causation.”
The Strom Law Firm Understands Worker’s Comp Legislation
There are obvious work injuries and not-so obvious work injuries.
- Physical injury: an accident such as a fall, chemical burn, cut.
- Repetitive injury: an injury acquired by repeating the same acts over and over through work. This could be accumulative hearing loss, debilitating back pain, carpel tunnel, neck pain. It is recommended to report a repetitive injury as soon as you need to seek medical attention for it.
- Disease: an occupational disease is one that is acquired because of your job such as lung diseases (ex. Asbestosis) from work environments and hazardous work-related materials, or disease contracted because your work in a hospital.
- Mental issues: Mental issues from extreme or unusual work conditions or from an ongoing work injury.
The workers comp lawyers at The Strom Law Firm, LLC proudly seek justice on behalf of employees injured or killed on the job who work for private companies, as well as employees working for local, county, city, and state government. We are licensed to practice throughout South Carolina, as well as Georgia and New York. If you are confused about worker’s comp laws, or have had your worker’s comp claim denied, contact us. We offer free consultations to discuss the facts of your case. 803.252.4800.