Federal Court Bench Trial Renders Verdict in Favor of Plaintiff in Take-Home Exposure Case and Awards Full Medical Expenses U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, Northeastern Division, September 29, 2015
In this federal court case, it was alleged that the decedent, Barbara Bobo, had secondary take-home exposure to asbestos from laundering her husband’s work clothes. Her husband worked at the Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant, operated by Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) from 1975-1997. Following denial of TVA’s motion for summary judgment, the case went to bench trial, where the court’s findings of fact supported that Mr. Bobo was exposed to asbestos at the plant from items such as insulation, roofing cement, gaskets, and pump packing. In ruling in favor of the plaintiff, the court relied upon the plaintiff’s expert, Dr. Eugene Mark’s, testimony that Mrs. Bobo’s exposure to asbestos from her husband’s work at TVA was a substantial factor in her developing mesothelioma. The court also found that TVA’s practices of asbestos air monitoring failed to meet OSHA monitoring requirements.
The court found TVA owed the decedent a duty of care, stating: “In light of the Alabama Supreme Court’s emphasis on foreseeability, that Court’s recognition of a duty where a defendant creates the risk of harm, and the very serious public policy considerations at issue, this court holds that TVA owed a duty of reasonable care to Barbara Bobo, and others like her.”
Finding that TVA breached its duty of care, the court awarded $3 million in damages for pain and suffering. Furthermore, despite the fact that the decedent’s medical expenses were almost all paid for by health insurance and Medicare, the court awarded the full amount for medical expenses, holding: “…damages recoverable by plaintiff[s] should not be diminished by the fact that [they have] been wholly or partially indemnified for [their] loss by hospital insurance to which defendant did not contribute. Accordingly, the court will award plaintiffs the full amount of Mrs. Bobo’s medical expenses: $537,131.82.” (Internal citation omitted.) The court did allow for an offset for settlements with various asbestos bankruptcy trusts.