A Pennsylvania appeals court has overturned a trial judge’s dismissal of a lawsuit brought by the widow of a worker who died after developing cancer the man claimed was linked to his exposure to asbestos-containing products while on the job.
The Pennsylvania Superior Court on Wednesday reversed a November 2019 decision by the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court that granted summary judgment to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania-based Kreider Dairy Farms Inc. in a lawsuit brought by Pamela K. Shellenberger on behalf of her late husband’s estate . Richard M. Shellenberger.
The widow alleged that her husband developed malignant mesothelioma as a result of his exposure to asbestos while working on the boiler at the Kreider Farms dairy processing plant, a disease that claimed his life in early 2019.
The defendants sought to have the case dismissed, arguing that Shellenberger had failed to prove that the farm breached a duty of care to her husband because they were unaware of the presence of asbestos during the time Mr. Shellenberger’s employment.
The district court ruled that “there was no evidence of that [the farm] had any knowledge of the dangers of asbestos”, and that a finding that the farm breached a duty of care “would stretch the concept of negligence too far …”
The appeals court said the record before the trial court contained “sufficient evidence from which a jury could have concluded that [the farm] should have known the dangers of asbestos.”
The panel ruled that the district court erred in dismissing the case on summary judgment and that a jury should have been given the opportunity to weigh the facts of the case as opposed to the district court dismissing it as a matter of law.