A contractor released asbestos in the air when removing floor tiles from my apartment and I have become increasingly sick. Who is responsible for my asbestos exposure?
UPDATED: February 20, 2013
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There are many possible responsible parties here. As in all cases, the asbestos manufacturer may be partially liable for producing an unreasonably dangerous product. The contractor shares in the liability for releasing the asbestos into the air. Measures should have been taken to either contain the asbestos release or make sure that the area was sufficiently cleaned up before you were allowed to go back in. The owner of the property may also share in the liability for not having the asbestos removed safely, for not having the asbestos cleaned up sufficiently, and for not giving you proper safety equipment during the time you were exposed to the asbestos.
Your attorney will first want to find all possible parties in this case who might be found to be liable to you for damages. Although it seems somewhat cold-blooded, one of the issues that will be considered is which of the parties has the deepest pockets; in other words, who is going to be able to pay the most damages – and try to show that the majority of the liability belongs to that party. It is unlikely that all parties will be found to share the liability equally. In particular, the manufacturer of the asbestos may already be in bankruptcy due to other cases, and may not be able to contribute much to the end result. Your attorney will be able to determine which parties are most liable and how it affects your ultimate damage award.
During settlement discussions or during a case, a monetary award will be determined and each defendant will be assigned to a certain percentage of the damages. Part of this calculation is often based on which defendants have the deepest pockets; in other words, which defendants are more likely to be able to pay larger damage awards. However, usually the percentage of damages assigned is related to how much of the liability that particular defendant shares. For example, if $100,000 was awarded, the employer might be found to be 60% at fault (resulting in $60,000 in damages), the manufacturer might be found to be 35% at fault (resulting in $35,000 in damages), and the supplier might be found to be 5% at fault (resulting in $5,000 in damages). This determination will be made by the jury.