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Mesothelioma News

Asbestos in County Courthouse Blamed for Judge’s Mesothelioma Death

It was back in 2004 that Jefferson County District Judge James Farris died of malignant mesothelioma, and ever since then his widow Ellarene has been fighting to get justice on his behalf. One year after his death she sued the county and a number of asbestos defendants, charging that they were responsible for having exposed him to the deadly fibers that lead to his disease. It is now 12 years later, and the case is still proceeding through the court system.

Ellarene Farris is certain that asbestos remediation work done in the Jefferson County courthouse, as well as years of exposure to asbestos within the building, caused her husband’s malignant mesothelioma. Farris had spent almost every one of his years in the legal profession working in the building. He started working there as an assistant district attorney in 1961, shifting titles and responsibilities to county Court-at-law No. 2 judge from 1969 to 1977 and 317th District Court judge from 1977 through 1996. The judge was not diagnosed with mesothelioma until after his death – he had been experiencing abdominal pain and difficulty breathing, but had not sought medical care.

Over the years the family’s mesothelioma lawsuit has taken several twists and turns, with the most recent challenge arising from the county arguing that they should never have filed a lawsuit at all, but instead should have filed an administrative claim with workers compensation. The county’s attorneys argue that the judge was an employee and therefore by statute he was required to be provided with those benefits: the family has countered that no such benefits were ever provided because he was an elected official rather than an employee, and that the county’s argument does not hold. In June a judge agreed with the family, but the county has appealed that decision and is now arguing against the case being allowed to proceed before a state appeals court. The judges questioned whether the fact that the judge was never actually provided such coverage didn’t change the scope of their legal argument, but the county is arguing against it. A decision is expected soon.

A mesothelioma lawsuit can take many twists and turns, and those responsible for exposing innocent victims to asbestos often fight hard to avoid having to provide compensation. Having an experienced mesothelioma attorney by your side provides you with a strong advocate. For information on how we can help, call us today at 1-800-966-2244.