Arizona companies have no duty to protect family members from exposure to toxic materials their employees bring home on their work clothes, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled Friday.
In the first ruling of its kind in Arizona, a majority of the justices rejected arguments by of survivors of Ernest Quiroz that Reynolds Metal Co. should be held legally responsible for his mesothelioma, a form of cancer frequently associated with asbestos exposure, and his eventual death. Justice Andrew Gould, writing for himself and four other justices, said the company owed no duty to protect anyone other than its own employees, with which it had a special relationship.
And Gould said the mere fact that an injury to others might be foreseeable is not, by itself, enough to hold the company liable.
That conclusion drew a stinging dissent from Chief Justice Scott Bales.
“Although the employer created the risk of physical harm — and failed to warn its employees or the persons ultimately injured — the majority concludes that the employer must be immunized from even the prospect of liability, no matter how reckless or otherwise unreasonable its conduct may have been,” Bales wrote for himself and Justice John Pelander. “One would think the children had a greater right to be free from others unreasonably exposing them to risks of debilitating and life-threatening illness.”
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