Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Appeals court gives the go-ahead to widow's case over asbestos exposure


A three-judge panel overturned an Okaloosa judge’s decision to grant summary judgment to the maker of automotive brake linings that contained asbestos.

A state appeals court Wednesday cleared the way for a lawsuit alleging that a woman developed the lung disease mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos while washing her husband’s work clothes.

A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal overturned an Okaloosa County circuit judge’s decision to grant summary judgment to Carlisle Industrial Brake & Friction Inc., which made automotive brake linings that contained asbestos.

The case was filed by Joan Smith, whose late husband was a truck mechanic and handled brake products. Joan Smith died of mesothelioma after filing the case, which continued with a representative of her estate as the plaintiff.

The ruling said the husband’s work “released asbestos-laden dust into the air and onto his clothing. When appellant’s decedent (Joan Smith) would wash Mr. Smith’s clothing, she would ‘shake out’ the dusty clothing. While performing this task she allegedly inhaled the dust.”

The ruling said the key issue in the appeal was whether the estate provided sufficient evidence to show that Joan Smith was exposed to asbestos from the company’s brake linings. It said the circuit judge “entered summary judgment in favor of Carlisle, indicating that there was no evidence, testimonial or otherwise, that decedent, Joan Smith, was ever exposed to asbestos from any Carlisle products.”

But Wednesday’s ruling, written by Judge Brad Thomas and joined by Judges Susan Kelsey and Rachel Nordby, said the estate “established that decedent (Joan Smith) was more likely than not exposed to Carlisle’s asbestos.”

The ruling sent the case back to circuit court, where a jury trial could be held on the issues.