Across the country, the rights of mesothelioma victims have been under attack. This is particularly true of people who were exposed to asbestos indirectly, usually through the clothes of a loved one. Asbestos fibers are small, and easily cling to hair, clothes and boots. When a worker gets home covered in asbestos dust, spouses, children and anyone who comes in contact is at risk of inhaling asbestos fibers. Spouses who wash clothes are particularly at risk for repeated exposure.
Thanks to a recent decision by the California Supreme Court, mesothelioma victims in the Golden State now have additional legal protections available if they were ever exposed to asbestos by their housemates.
In October, Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy, a longtime smoker, filed a lawsuit for lung cancer she has medical evidence to show was caused by exposure to asbestos when she was a teen and young adult. She was primarily exposed while doing laundry for her father and brother, both boiler makers, whose clothing came home covered in the deadly fibers. Because of her smoking, however, her lawsuit brought a storm of criticism.
Media Matters for America, a not-for-profit organization created to monitor and correct inaccurate media reports, took major exception to a Dec. 2 column in the New York Times. The column criticized Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy of New York for having recently filed a lawsuit against 70 asbestos companies potentially responsible for the lung cancer she made public in June. Since McCarthy is a longtime smoker, the writer attacked the eight-term House representative’s lawsuit as evidence that “asbestos litigation is a giant scam.”
The State of Maryland’s highest court ruled recently that Georgia-Pacific Corp. does not have to pay a woman who lost a lung to mesothelioma the $5 million a lower court had ordered. Why? Although the asbestos that sickened her was clearly from Georgia-Pacific products, her exposure was second-hand and took place in the 1960s, before the full danger of second-hand exposure was confirmed, the court said. Therefore, she had no legitimate product liability claim against the corporate giant.
If you thought that mesothelioma and asbestos-related illnesses were largely in the past, you may be surprised to learn that new claims are filed all the time. For example, a Mississippi woman recently filed suit against her husband's former employers and insurance companies, claiming she developed mesothelioma after handling his asbestos-laden work clothes.
The location of a now-demolished blue asbestos mill and mine is being described is seeing 10 new cases of mesothelioma a year, which a local physician is describing as "wiping out entire families."
We talk often on our Madison County mesothelioma blog about "secondhand exposure' to asbestos, without going into significant detail about exactly what that means. A recent asbestos lawsuit provides a closer look at that legal claim, which is growing increasingly common in mesothelioma lawsuits in Illinois and throughout the country.
Last month, the Illinois Supreme Court ordered that a lawsuit be remanded back to Madison County, where a judge will be tasked with determining whether the plaintiff's asbestos exposure and eventual mesothelioma diagnosis was foreseeable or not.