Suit alleges woman contracted mesothelioma by washing family's work clothes

Michelle Massey, East Texas Bureau Jun. 7, 2010, 6:29am

TYLER-After years of cleaning the asbestos-containing clothes of her father, husband, and son, Claudia Headley was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma and died from the disease on May 30, 2008.

Claudia's husband Robert and her sons Scott and Steven Headley filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Shell Energy North America (US) LP, Royal Dutch Shell PLC, Exxon Mobile Corp. and Alon USA, as successor in interest to Cosden Petroleum, on May 28 in the Tyler Division of the Eastern District of Texas.

According to the complaint, Claudia's father worked at a refinery in Big Spring for 38 years. Robert Headley and Scott Headley also worked for refineries.

"Decedent contracted mesothelioma as a result of household exposure to asbestos from repeatedly checking the pockets of and washing her Family's clothes, which were coated with asbestos dust," the lawsuit claims.

The defendants are accused of breaching their duties to provide a safe place to work, to warn of the hazards of employment, to protect independent contractors from work related hazards, in taking precautions to protect the safety of others when an employee performs work that is inherently dangerous and to avoid a foreseeable risk of injury to others.

The defendants should have known that the materials their men worked around were "deleterious and highly harmful" to Claudia Headley's health and well-being, the family argues.

Further, the defendants knew that after working in this dusty, asbestos-ridden environment, it would naturally and unavoidably expose Claudia Headley to the same asbestos fibers, dust and particles.

The plaintiffs are seeking wrongful death damages for pecuniary loss, termination of the husband-wife relationship, mental anguish, loss of household services, termination of the parent-child relationship, necessary medical, funeral and burial expenses, exemplary damages, interest and court costs.

Scott W. Wert of Foster & Sear LLP of Grand Prairie is representing the plaintiffs. Jury trial requested.

U.S. District Judge Michael H. Schneider is assigned to the litigation.

Case No. 6:10cv00273

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