Court rules in favor of ex-GM electrician in mesothelioma case

December 26th, 2006

An appeals court in Ohio has rendered a judgment in an asbestos suit against General Motors, in favor of the plaintiff, a retired electrician.

A panel of judges ruled that a Cleveland judge had incorrectly dismissed Lee C. Rettig’s lawsuit against GM. Rettig, a member of Toledo Local 8 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, had done work at several of the automotive giant’s plants intermittently from the 1950s through the 1980s.

Thomas Bevan, Rettig’s lawyer, told the Toledo Blade that the ruling “sets a precedent that could ease the way for other trade workers who contracted asbestos diseases while on the job.”

Rettig claims that, while working for GM, he developed mesothelioma—a deadly form of lung cancer—due to his long-term exposure to steampipe insulation and wiring that contained asbestos. The appeals court concurred with Rettig’s lawyers, who had insisted that GM knew of the dangers of asbestos and thus had a duty to warn and better protect Rettig. The judge who first heard the case found GM not guilty of wrongdoing, because, he opined, an electrician’s job has inherent dangers.

But Rettig’s mesothelioma lawyers responded that exposure to cancer-causing asbestos is not inherent in working as an electrician. Bevan, who has had mixed results in the past, calls the Rettig case “the first clear decision out of the court of appeals.”

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