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The Tennessee Supreme Court recently convened to decide a case in which a twenty three year old woman, Amanda Satterfield, filed suit against her father’s employer, ALCOA Inc. and Breeding Insulation Company. Satterfield claims from the time she was born, she was exposed to harmful asbestos fibers and dust due to her father’s use of the asbestos products. Unbeknownst to her father, the dust and fibers from his clothes were being transmitted into the family’s house leading Amanda to develop mesothelioma, which is a rare cancer associated with exposure to asbestos. Although Amanda died on January 1, 2005 at the age of twenty-five, the suit was continued by her father. The Satterfields are asking for ten million dollars in punitive damages, and another ten million dollars in compensatory damages, although they say the case is about having justice served and doing the right thing.

ALCOA’s lawyers state this case, if ruled for the plaintiff, could open a floodgate of potential plaintiffs; Tennessee would become a “plaintiff’s Mecca”. On the other hand, Satterfield’s lawyer, Greg Coleman, says ALCOA knew its employees would be going home eventually, so the company should be held responsible. Coleman also stated how unbelievable it would be if public policy did not extend to employees’ children. In the next three months, the Tennessee Supreme Court will be issuing a written opinion on the case. They will either dismiss the case entirely or return it back to the Blount County Circuit Court for a decision.

The Michie Hamlett firm in Central Virginia has dozens of these types of second-hand, or household, exposure asbestos cases. Unfortunately, many working folks unknowingly went home with asbestos dust on their clothes in the 1980’s and in earlier decades, unwittingly exposing their spouses and children to asbestos. Their employers, however, knew full well the consequences and risks involved, and yet, in most cases, did little or nothing to protect their employees’ families. Most state supreme courts, to date, have ruled in favor of the workers and their families, finding that that the employers had a duty to protect and/or warn against this type of asbestos exposure. Hopefully, Tennessee, and other states that will follow, will do the same. Most employers, especially the larger companies, had knowledge going back forty or fifty years of the hazards involved; given this knowledge, these defendants should be held accountable.

For more information on this subject, please refer to the section on Defective and Dangerous Products.

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