Mall Developer’s Asbestos Caused Cancer, Calif. Judge Told

A widow’s attorney told a California state judge that a shopping mall developer negligently exposed her husband to asbestos, which contributed to him developing colon cancer, but the company’s counsel argued that her husband’s cancer most likely resulted from an unhealthy lifestyle.

Shopping center developer TRZ Realty LLC’s  attorney, James G. Skadden, argued that Duty’s death can be attributed to his unhealthy lifestyle (high body mass index, chronic smoking, and alcohol consumption) and that there’s no evidence that Duty was exposed to unsafe levels of asbestos while installing drywall for TRZ Realty’s predecessor company, Ernest W. Hahn Inc., from the mid-1960s until 1980.

But counsel for Dolores Duty, Gilbert L. Purcell of Brayton & Purcell LLP, said they intend to present evidence at trial that will show exposure to asbestos was a contributor to the colon cancer from which William Duty died.

Duty received a colon cancer diagnosis in May 2008 and filed a negligence suit against a host of companies a few months later. When Duty died in December 2010 at the age of 65, Dolores Duty, who is now in her 70s, took over as plaintiff and brought a wrongful death claim.

Duty worked at construction sites starting in the mid-1960s where he was exposed to asbestos in compounds used to seal joints between sheets of drywall.

Purcell argued that TRZ Realty’s predecessor knew about the dangers of asbestos for decades before Duty began his work in the 1960s and that TRZ Realty’s predecessor negligently failed to eliminate asbestos exposure hazards at its job sites. Thus, Duty was breathing in asbestos while at work and that attempts to vacuum it up were futile.

There is no safe level of exposure to asbestos, which is classified as a human carcinogen.

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