Not all workplace injuries are sudden and immediate. Sometimes, the damage to an employee’s body occurs over time, such as in cases of repetitive motion or prolonged exposure to noise or toxic chemicals. Beryllium is a hazardous chemical that, even through modest workplace exposure, can be harmful. People exposed to beryllium can develop a malady known as Chronic Beryllium Disease (CBD). Those suffering from CBD have inflammation, scarred lung tissue, and impaired organ function. There is no known cure for CBD, but early detection and treatment can be of significant benefit to a patient.
Workers Bring Suit Due to Alleged Exposure to Beryllium
In the recent case of Genereux v. Raytheon, workers at a manufacturing plant brought a federal class action lawsuit alleging that they had been exposed to beryllium in the workplace. A second proposed class consisted of persons with “take-home” exposure. These people had lived with the employees during the time of the alleged workplace exposure. Both classes of plaintiffs sought to establish a trust fund that would pay for medical monitoring, including testing for a condition called beryllium sensitization (BeS). The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, asking the court to dismiss the suit on the grounds that the plaintiffs had not presented enough evidence of their alleged injuries for their case to move forward.
Summary Judgment Granted by the Federal District Court
Since the case was brought in federal court under diversity jurisdiction, the district court relied upon the substantive state law of Massachusetts in the case. The plaintiffs cited an earlier decision, Donovan v. Philip Morris USA, Inc., 914 N.E.2d 891 (Mass. 2009), for the proposition that medical monitoring costs may be recoverable in a tort suit under Massachusetts law. The defendant sought to distinguish the Donovan case on the grounds that, in Donovan, all of the plaintiffs had already experienced subcellar changes to their bodies at the time of the lawsuit, while none of the beryllium exposure plaintiffs could make such a showing. The district court found that the defendant manufacturer was entitled to summary judgment because no one in either class of plaintiffs had shown that they were suffering from BeS.
The Finding on Appeal
The appellate court agreed that, since the record revealed no significantly probative evidence of subcellular changes due to their exposure to beryllium, the plaintiffs’ claim was not viable. The court also rejected the plaintiffs’ alternative theory of liability because a cause of action for medical monitoring under Massachusetts law does not require a showing of subcellular or other physiological change. According to the court, it was too late for the plaintiffs to “change horses in midstream” simply because the alternative theory of liability had become more attractive.
For Help with Your Workplace Injury Case
Workplace injuries are all too common. If you have been injured on the job, either as the result of an accident or through exposure to a dangerous substance, you should speak with a qualified attorney about your rights under the law. The Law Offices of John C. Manoog, III will be glad to discuss your case with you. For a free initial consultation, call 888-262-6664 or you can use our online contact form.
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