Decedent’s At-Home Asbestos Exposure From Employer’s Products Does Not Bar the Application of California Workers’ Compensation Act

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After working for defendant Ameron International for approximately 24 years, Lario Melendrez passed away from mesothelioma. The plaintiffs commenced a wrongful death action, alleging Mr. Melendrez was exposed to asbestos both during the manufacture of Ameron’s Bondstrand pipe products and in bringing scrap products home for use. Ameron moved for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiffs’ sole remedy against Ameron lies in the California Workers’ Compensation Act. The trial court granted summary judgment and the appellate court affirmed. While the issue of whether Mr. Melendrez’s exposure to asbestos at home arose out of and in the course of his employment with Ameron was triable, it was not material to whether the workers’ compensation exclusivity defense applied. Because it is undisputed that his asbestos exposure during employment with Ameron substantially contributed to his mesothelioma, under the contributing cause standard applicable in workers’ compensation law the mesothelioma was covered. In so ruling, the court relied upon the broad concept of contributing cause to bring injuries within workers’ compensation coverage.

The court summarized: “In short, if a substantial contributing cause of an injury arises from employment, the injury is covered by workers’ compensation, even if another, nonindustrial cause also substantially contributed to the injury.” Thus, the decedent’s separate exposure at home did not create a separate injury outside this coverage. This decision is also consistent with the principle that exclusivity provisions encompass all injuries collateral to or derivative of any injury compensable by the exclusive remedies of this Workers’ Compensation Act.

Read the full decision here.