Second-Hand Mesothelioma Lawsuit Filed Over Exposure to Asbestos Washing Clothes

The family of a Texas woman has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Royal Dutch Shell and Exxon Mobile Corp., saying that she contracted mesothelioma cancer after exposure to asbestos fibers while washing the clothes of men who worked for the companies. 

The second-hand mesothelioma lawsuit was filed on May 28 in the Tyler Division of the Eastern District of Texas by the husband and sons of Claudia Headley, who died of mesothelioma on May 30, 2008. The lawsuit says that she was exposed to asbestos when cleaning the clothing of her father, husband and sons, all of whom worked with asbestos for various oil and gas companies.

Defendants in the lawsuit include Royal Dutch Shell PLC and its subsidiary, Shell Energy North America, Exxon Mobile Corp. and Alon USA, which holds the interests of the former Cosden Petroleum. The lawsuit alleges that the companies failed to warn workers of the risks of asbestos exposure for their families, and failed to protect family members from exposure to toxic asbestos fibers.

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Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer found in the lining of the chest and lungs, which is only known to occur as a result of exposure to asbestos. The disease has a very long latency period and is often not discovered until decades after exposure, leading to a limited life expectancy after diagnosis.

Asbestos was widely used in a variety of manufacturing and construction applications throughout the last century, with use peaking in 1973. Most uses of asbestos were banned in the mid-1980s. Despite the ban, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that the number of mesothelioma deaths continues to rise each year due to the latency period, with the number expected to peak in 2010.

According to a report in the Southeast Texas Record, the plaintiffs, which include Headley’s husband, Robert, and her two sons Scott and Steven, seek an unspecified amount of compensation for wrongful death, termination of husband-wife relationship and parent-child relationship, mental anguish, loss of household services, medical, funeral and burial expenses, as well as court costs.

In recent years, a growing number of second-hand asbestos exposure lawsuits over mesothelioma have been filed by those who were not directly exposed to asbestos, but by living in the same house as those who came into direct contact. Family members who washed clothes, children who were held by their parents after arriving from work covered in asbestos fibers and other similar situations have resulted in successful lawsuits against the manufacturers of asbestos and products containing asbestos.

Asbestos exposure mesothelioma lawsuits are the longest running mass tort in U.S. history, with the first asbestos case filed in 1929. Over 600,000 people have filed lawsuits against 6,000 defendants after being diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestosis or other asbestos-related diseases.

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