Las Vegas Sun

October 30, 2014

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Court says it takes ‘balanced approach’ on asbestos cases

The Nevada Supreme Court says it is taking a "balanced approach" in cases where an individual claims his exposure to asbestos dust caused lung cancer.

The court has ruled that the survivors of Randy Holcomb can proceed to trial in Las Vegas in their suit against three companies that used products that emitted asbestos dust in construction jobs.

The unanimous decision, written by Chief Justice Michael Cherry, overturns the pre-trial summary judgment by District Judge Douglas Herndon in favor of Georgia Pacific, Kaiser Gypsum and Kelly Moore Paint Co.

Holcomb died in December 2008 in Las Vegas, and his widow and four children filed suit claiming his exposure to the asbestos in jobs in Florida and Nevada caused his mesothelioma or lung cancer.

The court said that for the case to proceed from the pre-trial and summary judgment stage to trial, the injured must produce evidence "that supports an inference of probable exposure to the defendant's asbestos product."

It said there must be a showing that the decedent was exposed on a regular basis over an extended time to the asbestos and it is reasonable to infer the exposure caused the mesothelioma.

It is then up to a jury to decide if the exposure was sufficient to cause the lung cancer.

Cherry wrote, "We take a balanced approach to find a causation test that is not overly rigorous or too relaxed in order to ensure protection for both manufacturers and consumers."

The court said the family produced evidence to meet the "minimum burden" that showed Randy was exposed to the asbestos dust in order to move the case to trial. It said the jury must decide whether this exposure cause the death of Randy.

The court upheld the summary judgment granted in favor of Union Carbide saying the Holcomb family failed to show the asbestos in products used by the three companies came from Union Carbide.

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