Business Insurance reports that in reversing a trial court decision, the high court found that Alcoa Inc. should have foreseen that its negligent failure to prevent asbestos fibers from leaving its worksite posed great harm to others it did not employ. According to court papers, Doug Satterfield began working at an Alcoa Inc. plant in Alcoa, Tennessee, in the 1970s after federal workplace rules required companies that worked with materials containing asbestos to take several precautionary measures.
Alcoa did not follow those regulations and argued that its failure to do so did not create any special obligation to others outside of its worksite, according to the news report. Among other violations, Alcoa took no measures to prevent employees from bringing home worth clothes contaminated with asbestos fibers and did not post any workplace warnings about the health risks associated with asbestos.
Court papers said Satterfield exposed his daughter daily to his contaminated work clothes, beginning the day in 1979 he visited her at the hospital when she was born prematurely. She died of mesothelioma at age 25 in 2005.
The state Supreme Court recognized that some courts in other states have found that employers in similar cases cannot be held liable to plaintiffs who were not employees because no special relationships exist between an employer and a nonemployee, but said that in those rulings, either negligence laws differed in those states or the facts in those cases were significantly different from those alleged in its case.
The case is Doug Satterfield vs. Breeding Insulation Co. et al.