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Washington Supreme Court Denies Worker Ability to Sue his Employer In a Mesothelioma Case

Ordinarily, a worker can not sue his or her employer in a third-party case before a jury. A worker’s remedies are generally limited to workers compensation when it comes to bringing an action against an employer. That is different from a worker’s ability to sue in a court of law the manufacturers or suppliers of asbestos that he or she worked with or around. Some states, however, have exceptions to the workers compensation bar  against suing the employer. This case considered that exception in the state of Washington. 

The Washington Supreme Court on Thursday found that a state law prevents the estate of a former Boeing Co. worker from suing the aircraft maker for his mesothelioma, finding that the plaintiffs hadn’t shown that Boeing knew the injury would certainly occur.The state’s highest court ruled that Washington’s Industrial Insurance Act, which shields employers from civil suits from employees who sustained injuries on the job, prevents the estate of former Boeing hammer shop worker Gary Walston from suing his employer. Walston, who was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2010, died three years later from the illness.The high court’s ruling upholds the decision by the state court of appeals, which had granted Boeing’s summary judgment motion.“We conclude that Walston has not raised a question of material fact as to whether Boeing had actual knowledge of certain injury resulting from the asbestos exposure,” the court said. “Therefore, Walston has not shown that Boeing deliberately intended to injure him and cannot pursue a claim outside of the workers’ compensation system.”

 Thus this case upholds the exclusive remedy of workers compensation unless the worker is able to show that his employer in the state of Washington  was aware of the dangers of asbestos and did not protect him. 

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