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South African miners seek class action status for lung disease lawsuit

Although the following lawsuit is not being tried in Madison County or even in the United States, we felt it was important to share on our Illinois personal injury blog. It a reminder that people all over the world are suffering from mesothelioma and other deadly lung diseases as a result of their employers' failure to protect them from the harmful effects of substances they come into contact with every day at work.

In this case, employees of three South African gold mines are seeking class action status for a lawsuit they plan to file against the owners of those mines. In their lawsuit, the more than 3,000 current and former miners are accusing the mining companies of negligence in failing to protect them from mining dust and other harmful substances. That negligence, the miners claim, ultimately caused them to contract the lung disease silicosis.

Much like mesothelioma and other similar lung diseases, silicosis is known to cause chest pains, shortness of breath and a persistent cough. While the disease itself is not as fatal as mesothelioma, it does cause people to become highly susceptible to the deadly disease tuberculosis.

The attorney representing the 3,000 miners recently filed a petition seeking class action status for his clients. There is also another similar but separate case in the works, also involving thousands of miners. It is possible that those cases will ultimately be joined together.

The groundwork for the silicosis suits was laid about a year ago, when the nation's Constitutional Court ruled, for the first time, that miners suffering from lung diseases could sue their employers. Hopefully, these new lawsuits have similarly positive effects on South Africa's legal and mining culture.

Source: Reuters, "S.Africa gold miners face lung disease lawsuit," Wendell Roelf, Aug. 21, 2012

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