Nederland housewife files $30M suit against DuPont, alleges asbestos exposure from husband's laundry

David Yates Feb. 19, 2008, 7:10am

Ben Dubose

A Nederland housewife is suing DuPont and Union Carbide for more than $30 million.

From 1957 to 1985 Frances Barras washed the work clothes of her husband, a refinery worker at the Beaumont DuPont facility. Barras suffers from an asbestos-related illness and claims her sickness stems from inhaling asbestos fibers from her husband's tainted clothes.

Naming 10 different industrial companies as defendants, Barras and six members of her family filed their $30 million suit in the Jefferson County District Court on Feb. 11.

In addition to DuPont, some of the defendants named in the suit include Union Carbide, Anchor Packing Co., Guard-Line, Ingersoll-Rand and Owens- Illinois.

According to the plaintiffs' petition, Barras "inhaled great quantities of asbestos fibers" in the household setting as a result of her husband's employment with DuPont.

"Plaintiff, Frances E. Barras, alleges that she was exposed to asbestos fibers and dust emanating from the work clothing, body and hair of plaintiff's husband, Louis Barras, which originated from the asbestos-containing products and machinery … sold by defendants," the suit said.

A few of Frances Barras' household duties at the family's Fourth Street home included shaking out and laundering her husband's work clothing, cleaning up the washer and dryer area, changing out the washing machine lint filters and traveling in Louis Barras' work car, the suit said.

Barras has been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma.

"The illnesses and disabilities of plaintiff are a direct and proximate result of the negligence of each defendant … in that said entities produced and put into the stream of commerce asbestos-containing products," the suit said.

"Defendants knew, or in the exercise of ordinary care should have known, (that their products) were deleterious and highly harmful to (people's) health and well-being."

The suit claims DuPont should have foreseen that employees, such as Louis Barras, would be exposed to asbestos while performing their work duties and transport the asbestos fibers on work clothing, bodies and hair to their households.

In addition to other allegations, the plaintiffs claim DuPont is negligent for the following regarding Frances Barras' exposure:

  • Failing to take reasonable precautions to prohibit the transportation of asbestos fibers from its jobsite to the household setting;
  • Failing to provide offsite laundry facilities for employees' work clothes;
  • Failing to adequately warn of the dangerous characteristics and serious health hazards associated with asbestos exposure; and
  • Failing to provide information regarding reasonably safe wearing apparel and proper protective equipment.

    The plaintiffs allege that each defendant aided, abetted, encouraged or directed the negligent and intentional acts of every other defendant.

    The actions of the defendants "were of such character as to constitute a pattern or practice of intentional wrongful conduct and/or malice resulting in damage and injury to the plaintiff," the suit alleges. "More specifically, defendants consciously and/or deliberately engaged in oppression, fraud, willfulness, wantonness and/or malice with regard to the plaintiff and should be held liable in punitive and exemplary damages to plaintiff."

    The Barras family is suing for $15 million in compensatory damages and $15 million in punitive damages, plus past and future mental anguish, medical expenses and loss of services.

    Louis Barras is seeking damages for loss of his spouse's services, consortium, financial support and the care and comfort of her society in addition to damages for medical expenses, nursing care and mental anguish.

    The plaintiff's children Nita McCarty, Michael Barras, David Barras, Susan Rose Barras and Joe Barras are seeking damages for loss of parental consortium, including the positive benefits from their mother's love, affection, protection, emotional support, services and society.

    The plaintiffs are represented by Ben Dubose, attorney for the Baron & Budd law firm.

    Judge Milton Shuffield, 136th Judicial District, has been assigned to the case.

    Case No. D181-204

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