HR Alert

California: Employers Have a Duty to Prevent Carrying Asbestos from the Premises to Household Members

Duty Extends Only to Members of a Worker's Household

The California Supreme Court recently addressed the issue of whether (among other things) an employer that uses asbestos in the workplace has a duty of care to protect members of an employee's household from exposure to asbestos through off-site contact with employees who carry asbestos fibers on their work clothing, tools, vehicles, or persons. A summary of the opinion is below.

Court Ruling
The California Supreme Court held that the duty of employers and premises owners to exercise ordinary care in their use of asbestos includes preventing exposure to asbestos carried by the bodies and clothing of on-site workers.

According to the court's opinion, where it is reasonably foreseeable that workers, their clothing, or personal effects will act as vectors carrying asbestos from the premises to household members, employers have a duty to take reasonable care to prevent this means of transmission.

The court emphasized that this duty extends only to members of a worker's household (i.e., persons who live with the worker and are thus foreseeably in close and sustained contact with the worker over a significant period of time). The Court reasoned that, by "drawing the line" at members of a household, the class of potential plaintiffs would be limited to an identifiable category of persons who, as a class, are most likely to have suffered a legitimate, compensable harm.

Note: This duty also applies to premises owners who use asbestos on their property, subject to any exceptions and affirmative defenses generally applicable to premises owners, such as the rules of contractor liability.

Click here to read the text of the opinion.


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