Pennsylvania Supreme Court Dramatically Expands Employers’ Exposure to Asbestos-Related Claims

On November 22, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court dramatically expanded employers’ exposure to lawsuits by imposing liability for employees’ asbestos-related claims unrestricted by the limitations previously enjoyed by employers under the Pennsylvania workers compensation laws.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has decided that employers in Pennsylvania can be sued for asbestos-related diseases outside of the protection of the Workers’ Compensation Act’s exclusivity when such diseases manifest after the 300 week period prescribed by the Workers’ Compensation Act. View the opinion in Tooey v. AK Steel. Given the long latency period for asbestos-related diseases, this ruling likely will allow a common law suit to be brought against a former employer in virtually every asbestos case controlled by Pennsylvania law.

The new ruling applies equally to other occupational disease cases, which are defined to include several specific conditions related to workplace exposures, as well as “[a]ll other occupational diseases (1) to which the claimant is exposed by reason of this employment, and (2) which are peculiar to the industry or occupation, and (3) which are not common to the general population.”

Among other issues, companies can prepare for potential asbestos lawsuits by researching and reviewing their historical insurance coverage, which may provide a defense and indemnification regarding these cases.

For More Information

If you would like guidance, please contact the Stevens & Lee attorney with whom you normally work or David J. Parsells at 610.205.6004.

This News Alert has been prepared for informational purposes only and should not be construed as, and does not constitute, legal advice on any specific matter. For more information, please see the disclaimer.