Temple-Inland Products Corporation v. Carter

993 S.W.2d 88 (1999)


D employed Biskamp Electric to install electrical outlets and computer jacks. Two Biskamp employees, Carter and Wilson, drilled holes in laboratory countertops, which they did not know and were not told contained asbestos. The drilling generated dust containing asbestos fibers. Ps had no protective gear to prevent them from inhaling the dust. Carter worked on the project from four to six weeks, and Wilson worked on it about two weeks. when the work was almost the laboratory manager warned Ps of the asbestos, at which point they stopped work on the project. D then tested and decontaminated the lab. Eighteen months later, Ps were examined by Dr. Daniel Jenkins, and neither had any asbestos-related disease. Ps sued D for mental anguish damages caused by its having negligently exposed them to asbestos fibers. During depositions, Dr. Jenkins insisted that P had been injured by their exposure to asbestos and probable inhalation of asbestos fibers.  He estimated that the chances of Ps developing a disease, as a result, had increased from one in a million, which he estimated to be the risk that a person would ever develop a disease from asbestos exposure not occupationally related, to about one in 500,000 for the next ten or fifteen years, and as much as one in 100 over twenty or thirty years. He characterized thus risk as a 'high possibility' but not a probability. D moved for summary judgment on the ground that Ps had not suffered any injury for which they could recover mental anguish damages. D argued that Ps' claims for fear of the mere possibility of developing some disease in the future amounted to nothing more than negligent infliction of emotional distress for which they could not recover. The trial court granted summary judgment. The court of appeals reversed the judgment on Ps' actual damage claims. The court concluded that 'it is well established a plaintiff may recover for mental anguish based upon fear of cancer even though the evidence shows the plaintiff does not have, and in reasonable medical probability, will not have cancer, so long as there has been exposure to the causative agent and the fear is reasonable.' D appealed.