Asbestos in the Home: Liability and Lawsuits
We all want to feel healthy in our own homes, and we often take it as a given that the air in our homes is safe to breathe. But what happens when materials inside your own home turn out to be dangerous and potentially deadly? Read on to learn about the dangers associated with asbestos in the home as well as your legal rights if you’ve become sick as a result.
What Is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was once used in a variety of products due to its durability and flame retardant and insulating properties. Asbestos was frequently used in construction materials like insulation, floor and ceiling tiles, and glues used for flooring. Unfortunately, exposure to asbestos dust has been shown to increases the likelihood of serious lung diseases, including mesothelioma – which is a cancer of the chest lining or abdominal cavity.
Most homes built before 1975 contain asbestos building materials. However, the mere presence of asbestos in the home is not necessarily risky if the building materials are in good condition. The danger occurs when materials containing asbestos deteriorate or are damaged or disturbed, asbestos fibers become airborne and can be breathed into the lungs. Those planning on remodeling their homes are encouraged by the Environmental Protection Agency to hire a trained and accredited asbestos professional to conduct a thorough inspection before any remodeling commences.
Legal Action for Asbestos in the Home
If you suffer from an illness caused by exposure to asbestos and you believe that asbestos in your home caused you to become sick, there may be legal recourse 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:
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, when completing disclosure forms, include any information about asbestos in the home. If a seller knew about the presence of asbestos and failed to include that information in the disclosure, then arguably the seller has breached the duty owed to the buyer.
You will also need to show that the asbestos in your home caused your illness by ruling out other causes of the illness or other sources of exposure to asbestos. If there’s asbestos in your home, but it’s in good condition and undisturbed by home renovations, it may be more difficult to show that the presence of asbestos caused your illness. There may also be alternate sources of the asbestos, in which case the previous homeowner may be off the hook. For example, individuals who work in construction and manufacturing jobs often face exposure to asbestos at work. There have even been cases of "take home" asbestos dust carried home on clothing causing "second hand" illness in family members.
Damages in Asbestos Cases
You will also need to quantify your damages suffered from asbestos-related illness. The sorts of damages you could expect to recover are:
- Medical costs and future medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Reduced earning capacity
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Pain and suffering
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.
Get Legal Help with Asbestos Claims
If you believe that you or a loved one got sick as a result of exposure to asbestos in your home, you should act promptly to understand your legal rights. A great first step is to contact a local asbestos/mesothelioma attorney for a free claim review.