Archive for May, 2010

Mesothelioma Lawsuit $14 Million-Plus Award

Monday, May 24th, 2010

Another mesothelioma lawsuit has recently been settled in the plaintiff’s favor.  According to a blog post published today (May 24) on Asbestos.com, a 59-year-old man in the Miami area has been awarded over $14 million because of asbestos exposure he was subjected to while working.  This asbestos exposure later caused the man to develop peritoneal mesothelioma.  (The “peritoneal” element of this particular mesothelioma indicates that this cancer had attacked the lining of his abdomen, not necessarily the pleural lining of his lungs.)

The judgment decided against the defendant, Union Carbide, who was found to be negligent for selling asbestos fibers to companies, such as construction equipment companies, who then used the fibers in the manufacturing of their products.  The man came into contact with these asbestos fiber-laden products in the 1970s, when he worked for his family’s construction company.

Though mesothelioma is an incredibly rare disease, it much more strongly affects those in an certain industries, especially the fields of shipbuilding and construction.  That’s because asbestos used to be a prized ingredient in many of the products used in those areas.  Asbestos uses in these disciplines was varied.  The mineral has excellent insulation and flame-retardant properties, and its light density set it apart from other similar additives.   Unfortunately, when inhaled, it also causes mesothelioma, a grievously lethal disease for which there is no cure.  In addition to workers in the aforementioned industries, the families of those laborers also were at higher risk of coming into contact with asbestos fibers, since they often got trapped in hair and clothing and taken home.

Once inhaled, asbestos fibers can remain relatively harmless in the lungs for anywhere from 10 to 50 years before triggering mesothelioma. Despite such a long latency period, however, once the disease is diagnosed, life it advances rapidly.  The life expectancy of a mesothelioma victim is often measured in months, and as previously mentioned, there is no cure for this devastating disease.

Libby, Montana Asbestos Tragedy

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

Asbestos exposure has been a widespread, well-documented, and sadly devastating concern in the isolated mining community of Libby, Montana.  The issue began in 1919, when a vermiculite mine, called the Zonolite Company, opened in the area.  The mine soon grew to become a primary employer in the area, with many of the area’s population employed in the mining of vermiculite, and, in 1963, the mine was purchased by W. R. Grace and Company.  Unfortunately, the vermiculite that was proving to be a boon to the people of Libby also appeared to contain asbestos fibers, which, unbeknownst to the local populace, was causing an abnormally high number of deaths from asbestos-related ailments, including mesothelioma.

Once the Seattle Post-Intelligencer ran a series of articles (called, collectively, “A Town Left to Die”) linking the unusual number of asbestos-related deaths in the area to the mine formerly run by W. R. Grace and Company, federal investigators stepped in to determine the veracity of some of the claims made.  Their investigation turned up a disheartening result: there was an alarmingly high level of asbestos fibers found in air samples taken from around the area.  The authorities subsequently linked this finding to the asbestos-related illnesses that plagued the town.

Once the connection was made, the wide-ranging nature of Libby’s asbestos problems was made clear.  Nearly 300 deaths in the town and its surrounding are suspected to be related to asbestos.  This figure, already shockingly high, is even more tragic when taken in context of the town’s population of under 3,000.  Subsequent criminal charges were brought against employees of W. R. Grace & Company, all of whom were found not guilty on all counts.

Nothing can undo the disaster that transpired in Libby, Montana, a good mesothelioma lawyer—or, more likely, a  team of them—could theoretically help intercede on their behalf.  Let’s hope that environmental disasters such as this one neither transpire nor go unpunished in the future.

Secondary Asbestos Exposure Decision

Monday, May 10th, 2010

Mesothelioma lawsuits have traditionally been high-stakes, but the outcome of a recent trial in California might be uncharted territory, as far as payout size is concerned.

According to an article found on the Surviving Mesothelioma site, jurors in a recent case involving a woman who allegedly contracted mesothelioma by washing her husband’s asbestos-tainted clothing ruled in her favor, awarding her $208.8 million in total damages.  Of that total, $8.8 million was compensatory, while $200 million was punitive.

The article states that Bobby Evans, a worker for the L.A. Department of Water and Power from 1974 to 1998, had to, among other things, had to cut asbestos cement pipes as part of his job’s duties.  These pipes, manufactured by CertainTeed Corporation, released asbestos fibers into the air when cut.  These fibers then settled into his clothing, which were then apparently released into the air when his wife, Rhoda, washed them.

Unfortunately, there is nothing new about this claim.  Many industries, but primarily the shipbuilding and construction ones, historically used asbestos as an insulator and a fire retardant.  It did both jobs well, and was a remarkably light material to boot, so it was highly prized.  Unfortunately, it also causes devastating lung diseases, including mesothelioma, asbestosis, and other debilitating cancers.  It decimated workers in those very industries that used it most.

What’s more, the lightweight fibers did have a tendency to get stuck in clothing and hair, which could then be disturbed in workers’ households and inhaled by his family.  Hence the very real possibility that this is indeed what happened to Rhoda Evans.

Though $208.8 million seems like a staggering payday, there’s a good chance that the final amount will be lowered in an appeal.  What’s more, mesothelioma is an absolutely ravaging disease, one that, as of now, has no apparent cure.  Despite constant improvements in mesothelioma treatment, the life expectancy of a victim is often measured in months, not years.

Mesothelioma Cases in Italy Ruled “Negligent Homicide”

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

Here’s an intriguing bit of news on the mesothelioma law front: three former executives of the massive, Trieste, Italy-based shipbuilding company Fincantieri have been convicted of “negligent homicide” in light of the fact that 37 employees died due to asbestos exposure.

According to an article posted on the Canadian news source site The Province, the three executives were jailed and given sentences ranging from three to 7 1/2 years.  A sum that was either undisclosed or not specifically reported by The Province, but was nevertheless noted to be in the millions of dollars, was also part of the damages secured.

The decision against the Fincantieri executives stems from the apparent fact that the shipbuilding company continued to use asbestos in the construction of its ships until 1999.  For a little perspective, Italy outlawed the use of asbestos as a construction material back in 1996.  The three years of oversight was enough for the court to find the former executives guilty.

Asbestos, a fibrous material used for its valuable insulation properties, was an integral element in the shipbuilding industry for many years.  Some of the many uses of asbestos in the field were the insulation of pipes, gaskets, boilers, and engines.  Unfortunately, asbestos also causes devastating lung diseases, among them mesothelioma, an insidious cancer that has no known cure.

It sounds like the plaintiffs in this case got what appears to be a pretty aggressive and savvy law firm working for them.  That’s good to hear.  Though a successful mesothelioma settlement can’t undo the ravages that this disease causes on a victim’s lungs, it can help mitigate the medical expenses left behind for the bereaved to deal with.  That can be useful, considering the massive and rapidly accruing expenses often associated with experimental treatments and quickly advancing diseases.

And, like the conviction of the former executives of Fincantieri might indicate, these settlements are also capable of achieving another purpose: justice.