Recently the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that a premises owner is not liable for asbestos tort claims when the exposure takes place off the premises. This ruling effectively bars liability for premises defendants in ‘take home exposure’ cases where the plaintiffs claim the plaintiff was exposed to asbestos by laundering a worker’s clothes. In a 5-1 decision the Court affirmed the judgment of the 8th District Court of Appeals. Boley v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., Slip Opinion No. 2010-Ohio-2550 (June 10, 2010).
The decedent, Mary Adams, laundered the clothes of her husband Clayton Adams during the time that he worked at Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. in St. Marys, Ohio, from 1973 to 1983. Plaintiffs claim she developed mesothelioma cancer as a result of the dust she breathed from laundering Mr. Adams’ work clothes. Mrs. Adams’ estate representative, Cheryl Boley and Mr. Adams filed suit against several defendants including Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. In response, Goodyear filed a Motion for Summary Judgment citing the plain meaning of R.C. 2307.941(A)(1), which exempts property owners from liability "for any injury to any individual resulting from asbestos exposure unless that individual’s alleged exposure occurred while the individual was at the premises owner’s property." Plaintiffs’ counsel, in reply to Goodyear’s motion, argued that this section should not apply since Mrs. Adams’ exposure took place at home and not on the premises. The trial court granted Goodyear’s Summary Judgment motion indicating that R.C. 2307.941(A)(1) explicitly bars ‘take home’ exposure cases as they pertain to premises owners. The 8th District Court of Appeals affirmed.
The Supreme Court examined the legislative intent of R.C. 2307.941(A)(1) and held, "when its meaning is clear and unambiguous, we apply the statute as written." It further held, "…the General Assembly has manifested its intent to preclude liability for premises owners from claims for asbestos exposure that occurs away from the owner’s premises. ... Because Mary’s exposure did not occur at Goodyear’s property, R.C. 2307.941(A)(1) precludes Goodyear’s liability as to this claim."