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California Appeals Court Revives Airborne Asbestos Exposure Case

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The Sixth District California Court of Appeal recently revived a unique asbestos case that had previously involved summary judgment for the defendant asbestos manufacturers.

The appellate court panel's decision paves the way for the surviving family members of Dean Trapp, who died of mesothelioma in 2014, to move forward with their suit against asbestos and asbestos-containing products manufacturers CertainTeed Corp and Calaveras Asbestos, Limited.

Background of the case

This case doesn't involve direct occupational exposure or even secondary exposure to asbestos fibers. Instead, Mr. Trapp, who both lived and worked within a few miles of CertainTeed Corp's cement pipe factory for years (Calaveras Asbestos supplied the asbestos used in those pipes), suffered airborne exposure to asbestos particulates in the air originating from the factory. The case alleges strict liability, negligence, breach of warranty, and failure to warn claims against the defendants for contaminating the ambient air with unsafe levels of asbestos.

Mr. Trapp's surviving family members brought suit back in 2014 following his death. Defendants sought and received summary judgment in 2016. The appeals court decision reverses the summary judgment, stating that defense experts had not shown that airborne particulates from the defendants' businesses could not have caused Mr. Trapp's mesothelioma.

Specifically, the appeals court decision found that take-home exposure and airborne exposure are both proven methods of exposure to asbestos, and "it is certainly not clear, as the trial court assumed, that one method of exposure is more serious and life-threatening than the other."

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