Halverson v. Larrivy Plumbing & Heating Co.
Minnesota Supreme Court
322 N.W.2d 203 (1982)
Wallace Halverson (plaintiff) worked as a plumber for various employers from 1948 until 1979. During the more than 30 years of his work as a plumber, Halverson was repeatedly exposed to asbestos at all his places of employment. From 1970 to 1975, Halverson worked solely for Larrivy Plumbing and Heating Company (Larrivy) (defendant). From 1976 to February 1977, Halverson worked for Larrivy and A. G. O’Brien (O’Brien) (defendant). From February 1977 to September 1977, Halverson worked only for O’Brien. From September 1977 to January 1978, Halverson did not work, and then Halverson returned to work for O’Brien from January 1978 to May or June 1979, when Halverson quit work completely. In 1975 Halverson experienced trouble breathing while swimming. An X-ray taken that year showed signs of asbestosis, but Halverson was not diagnosed with asbestosis until he saw Dr. Terrance Clark, a pulmonary specialist, in September 1977. Halverson filed a claim for workers’-compensation benefits. At a hearing held in 1980, Dr. Clark testified that Halverson’s disease was caused by exposure to asbestos from 1952 to August 1977. Upon questioning, however, Dr. Clark clarified that the latency period for asbestosis is 5 to 40 years, meaning that the symptoms Halverson was then experiencing were caused by exposure to asbestos at least five years before the hearing, or in 1975 or earlier. Dr. Clark further testified that Halverson’s asbestos exposure after 1975 may contribute to his disease in the future. The compensation judge found Halverson to have a 40 percent permanent partial disability due to asbestosis and found O’Brien liable as the place of last exposure. The Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals vacated the award, finding that Larrivy, where Halverson was working in 1975, was the place of last exposure for Halverson’s then-existing disease. Accordingly, the Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals held that Larrivy was liable, not O’Brien. Larrivy appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Todd, J.)
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