Asbestos exposure attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm report that the Arizona Supreme Court recently ruled that New Mexico law does apply to a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the wife of a welder who was exposed to asbestos on the job and consequently died of mesothelioma.
The man, Dudley Pounders, was living in Arizona at the time of his death, though he was employed as a welder in New Mexico between the 1960s and 1980s. Pounders’ wife is the plaintiff in this case and filed claims against Enserch E&C and two other companies after her husband’s death in August 2008. The couple moved to Arizona in the late 1980s.
The Arizona Supreme Court ruled that New Mexico had a greater interest in the case since it was the location of his exposure. This is significant because the defendants initially tried to argue that New Mexico’s liability laws should be bypassed because of the Pounders’ move to Arizona, where the statute of limitations is considerably less than New Mexico’s. The high court decided that New Mexico was the most relevant location pertaining to Pounders’ injury.
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The Supreme Court ruled that, although the place of injury was Arizona, since that was the state in which Pounders’ mesothelioma manifested, the place of injury was of little relevance. The Pounders could have moved anywhere after leaving New Mexico, so the state in which exposure took place should apply to this case.
The Court also noted that the case raised issues concerning the wrongful death actions involving long-latency diseases. Mesothelioma, similar to lung cancer, can take anywhere between 20 and 50 years to manifest as cancer in the lining of the lungs. Mesothelioma patients were often unknowingly exposed to asbestos on the job; asbestos fibers were inhaled by these victims, where they remain permanently in the lung tissue, eventually causing cancerous tumors.
Defendants in this case include Ensearch E&C, which is the successor to the architect and construction manager that oversaw the building of several units where Pounders worked; BW/IP Inc, which is the parent company to the manufacturer that provided pumps used at his place of employment; and Riley Power Inc, which made the industrial boilers used at his workplace.
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The plant where Pounders was employed is an Arizona Public Service plant, Four Corners Power Plant, located in New Mexico. As a professional welder, Pounders performed repair and maintenance work that required him to disturb and remove the asbestos in the boilers, pumps and insulation. The pumps and boilers produced and designed by the defendants contained asbestos, resulting in Pounders’ exposure and consequent death.
Disturbing asbestos fibers renders the substance ‘friable’, meaning it can easily become airborne and inhaled into the lungs. This is precisely what occurred in Pounders, leading to his mesothelioma development. After his diagnosis, where it was made clear the cancer would take his life, the couple sued the defendants for failing to warn them of the dangers of asbestos and for defectively designing, manufacturing, and using the pumps and boilers in the Four Corners Power Plant.
The Texas Supreme Court is scheduled to hold oral arguments in a similar case in early September 2013. The plaintiff,Susan Bostic, is the wife of a man who died of mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos by Georgia-Pacific Corp. Bostic initially won a $12.4 million judgment against the company, however an appeals court decided to overrule the award. Bostic is now challenging the appeals court decision in the state’s high court.
Mesothelioma lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm have decades of experience advocating on behalf of those exposed to asbestos on the job. If you or a loved one was exposed and developed a related illness, you have important legal rights, and may be entitled to significant compensation for any medical bills, lost wages, or wrongful death. Our attorneys are free to speak to potential clients from all 50 state for free legal evaluations.