Theory Brake Dust Led to Asbestos-Related Death Does Not Meet Ohio Law

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Source: Court News Ohio announcement

COLUMBUS, Ohio – A theory which posits that every nonminimal exposure to asbestos can be a substantial factor in causing asbestos-related disease is inconsistent with Ohio’s test for causation, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled.

Writing for the Court in an opinion released today, Justice R. Patrick DeWine explained that the theory—“cumulative-exposure theory”—does not meet the requirement of Ohio law that a plaintiff show exposure to a particular manufacturer’s asbestos product was a substantial factor in causing the disease.

The ruling reversed a $1 million Cuyahoga County jury verdict against Honeywell International, which had been found five percent responsible for Kathleen Schwartz’s death from mesothelioma. The jury had found Schwartz’s exposure to asbestos from Honeywell’s Bendix brand brakes that her father changed in the family garage was a substantial factor in causing her disease.

Related post:
$18.5 Million Awarded in Bendix-Related Asbestos Suit

Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and Justices Terrence O’Donnell, Sharon L. Kennedy, and Judith L. French joined the opinion.

Justice Patrick F. Fischer concurred in judgment, but wrote a separate opinion, stating the Court majority has not provided enough clarity to Ohio courts on how to consider future cases. He noted the state law does not define “substantial factor” and found the majority’s opinion is unclear about what distinguishes an exposure that is a substantial factor from an exposure that is not a substantial factor.

In a dissenting opinion, former Justice William O’Neill found that Schwartz’s estate provided enough evidence at trial for a jury to determine Honeywell was partially responsible for the death. He stated the Supreme Court was “categorically the wrong body to consider the weight of the evidence” and the Court should be more reluctant to overturn the decisions of juries

Family Sues Asbestos Makers Mesothelioma is almost always caused by breathing asbestos fibers. Schwartz was exposed to asbestos mostly from her father, who worked as an electrician. After her death, her husband Mark Schwartz filed a lawsuit against a number of defendants whose products contained asbestos. The case proceeded to trial only against Honeywell. To succeed, Mark Schwartz had to prove Kathleen had been exposed to the asbestos from the brakes and that the exposure was a substantial factor in her contracting mesothelioma.

The entire announcement can be viewed by clicking HERE.

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