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Asbestos in the Home: Liability and Lawsuits

We all want to feel healthy in our homes. Many Americans take for granted that the air in their homes is safe to breathe. But what happens when materials inside your home are dangerous and potentially deadly?

Read on to learn about the dangers of asbestos in the home and your legal rights if you become sick.

What Is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral used in various products due to its durability. It has flame-retardant and insulating properties, making it a common material used in home construction.

For decades, manufacturers used asbestos in construction materials like insulation, roofing, boilers, floor and ceiling tiles, and glues used for flooring. Unfortunately, studies have shown that exposure to asbestos dust increases the likelihood of severe lung diseases, including mesothelioma – a chest lining or abdominal cavity cancer.

Many homes built before 1975 contain asbestos building materials. However, asbestos in the house is relatively safe if the building materials are in good condition. The danger occurs when materials containing asbestos deteriorate or are damaged or disturbed. When this happens, the asbestos fibers become airborne, and people can breathe it into their lungs.

Those planning on remodeling their homes are encouraged by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to hire a trained and accredited asbestos professional to conduct a thorough inspection before any remodeling. Inspecting for asbestos is also a good idea if you are buying an older home.

Legal Action for Asbestos in the Home

If you suffer from an illness caused by exposure to asbestos and believe that asbestos in your home caused you to become sick, legal recourse may be available to you. You may be able to sue the previous owner of your home based on a negligence theory.

The elements of negligence are:

  1. Duty of care
  2. Breach
  3. Causation
  4. Damages

To prevail in a negligence action, you must show that the previous owner had a duty to disclose the existence of the asbestos. Some states require that sellers include any information about asbestos in the home in their disclosure forms.

If a seller knows about the presence of asbestos and fails to include that information in the disclosure, the seller has arguably breached the duty owed to the buyer. The seller must also disclose whether they did renovations and found asbestos in the property. If they did, they must provide the buyer with proof of remediation.

Your personal injury lawyer will also need to rule out other potential causes of your illness. There may be asbestos in your home. But if your home is in good condition and undisturbed by home renovations, it may be more difficult to show that the asbestos exposure caused your illness.

The defendant (previous homeowner) may argue that something else caused your asbestosis or other illness. They may say you encountered other health risks that caused your illness.

For example, construction, shipyard, and manufacturing workers often come into contact with asbestos-containing products. There have even been cases of "take home" asbestos dust carried home on clothing, causing "secondhand" illnesses in other household members.

You May Be Able to Sue Under Strict Liability

Not all asbestos litigation is due to negligence. You may be able to sue under product liability or strict liability. The company that manufactured your home's materials may be responsible under strict liability law.

Your asbestos attorney won't have to prove they didn't use reasonable care. All they'll have to prove is the defendant's product contained asbestos and that this product caused your injuries.

Even if the defendant included a disclaimer when they sold the dangerous products or materials, they may still be found liable.

Damages in Asbestos Cases

You must prove damages if you or a family member file an asbestos lawsuit.

If you have lung cancer or another asbestos-related illness, you may be entitled to the following:

  • Medical costs and future medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Reduced earning capacity
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Pain and suffering

If you sue for breach of contract, you may also be able to recover damages for the decreased value of your home due to the presence of asbestos or the cost of professional asbestos abatement.

Who Will You Name in Your Asbestos Litigation?

Ideally, you can resolve your claim with the defendant's insurance company. If that isn't possible, you'll have to file suit. You may need to name multiple parties in your initial complaint, including the following:

  • Previous property owners
  • Product manufacturers whose use of asbestos may have caused your injuries
  • Current premises owner, if you rent
  • Asbestos manufacturers
  • The construction company that performed renovations

Once a claimant's asbestos attorney can review their claim, they'll better understand who the responsible parties are. They will confirm the plaintiff's asbestos-related injuries and gather evidence to prove their case.

One of the tricky things about asbestos lawsuits is that there is a latency period with many asbestos-related diseases. Certain mesothelioma cases can take years (or decades) to develop. When you realize you're sick, it may be hard to track down the culprits.

Get Legal Help With an Asbestos Claim

If you believe you got sick from exposure to asbestos in your home, you should act promptly to protect your legal rights. If a loved one has died due to illness, you may have a claim for wrongful death. This legal claim filed under tort law can help your family recover compensation for losing your family member.

A great first step is to contact a local asbestos/mesothelioma attorney for legal advice.

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Contact a qualified product liability attorney to make sure your rights are protected.

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