Illinois Supreme Court Rules Wife of Railroad Employee Can Sue for Take-Home Asbestos Exposure

Critical Decision Preserves Rights of Cancer Victims to Hold Companies Accountable for Misconduct

ALTON, Ill., March 23, 2012 – The Illinois Supreme Court ruled yesterday against CSX Transportation and in favor of the family of Annette Simpkins of Granite City, Ill., who died of asbestos-related cancer after her husband brought the toxic dust home on his clothing from the railroad. The ruling yesterday returns the case to Madison County, Ill., for trial after a majority of Supreme Court justices found that an employer has an obligation to warn workers and their families about the dangers linked to take-home asbestos exposure.

The Firm, a national asbestos litigation firm headquartered in Alton, Ill., represents the Simpkins family. Attorney Ted Gianaris commended the court’s ruling, saying the decision strengthens the rights of Illinois families unjustly harmed by toxic exposures and keeps the railroad from evading its responsibility.


“The Supreme Court made a thoughtful decision that adds protection for any family member who becomes ill from a toxic exposure through no fault of his own,” Gianaris said. “The railroad wanted blanket immunity, claiming its responsibility ended with its workers. The railroad wants us to forget that it knew asbestos was deadly and was likely to leave the rail yard and make it home with the workers.”

According to the complaint in Simpkins, et al. v. CSX Transportation, Mr. Simpkins brought asbestos dust home on his clothes in the 1960s while working for CSX Transportation, formerly B&O Railroad. Mrs. Simpkins was exposed while doing his laundry and later developed mesothelioma, an aggressive asbestos-cancer. In 2007, the case was dismissed without trial at the railroad’s urging. Mrs. Simpkins died from her cancer that same year.

“Take-home” asbestos exposure occurs when a family member brings asbestos fibers from the workplace home on his clothes or skin, exposing others living in the household. Studies have shown mesothelioma can be caused with very little exposure to asbestos.

The Illinois Appellate Court reversed the decision in 2010, and the railroad appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court. Gianaris said yesterday’s ruling is important because it upholds precedence in Illinois case law that employers have a duty to warn the immediate family members of their employees who are at risk of being exposed to asbestos.

“This ruling protects Illinois’ families and holds wrongdoers accountable,” Gianaris said.