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What is the any exposure theory in asbestos litigation?

Causation is an important issue in any legal case involving claims of personal injury or product liability, regardless of the persons or products involved. Without a sound argument for causation, a legal case can fall apart and a plaintiff is going to gain nothing, and lose a significant amount of time, energy and money.

Different states have different approaches to proving causation in asbestos cases. These different theories of causation rely on different science, and have been modified as the science changes. One example of a change in the scientific evidence is seen in the shift from focusing on past asbestos exposure to considering a plaintiff’s cumulative exposure. 

The theory is sometimes referred to as “any exposure,” meaning generally that any exposure a plaintiff may have had to asbestos is significant enough to warrant legal recovery from the party responsible for that exposure. Use of the theory has allowed plaintiffs to recover damages from any party who had a role in exposing the plaintiff to asbestos. They theory, as some legal commentators have pointed out, represents a departure from the ordinary tort law, and has been challenged in a number of cases.

Because the theory of causation can vary significantly from state to state, and because building a sound legal argument is often a challenging task, it is important for defendants to work with an experienced attorney. A skilled attorney is particularly important in cases where causation is more difficult to prove because of sporadic exposure or lack of ability to trace to a single source.

Source: Southwestern Law School, “The ‘Any Exposure’ Theory: An Unsound Basis For Asbestos Causation And Expert Testimony,” Mark A. Behrens and William L. Anderson, 2008. 

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