The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, an independent organization providing education and advocacy for the elimination of asbestos-related diseases including mesothelioma, is sounding the alarm about the proposed federal Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act, or FACT Act, which has been before Congress since 2012 but is still in active consideration. To quote that organization, “Don’t be fooled, the FACT Act wasn’t written for asbestos victims.”
The Gori Law Firm recently filed a ten-count lawsuit against 59 defendant corporations on behalf of Missouri woman who developed mesothelioma after decades of exposure to asbestos-laden products. She and her husband are seeking compensation for more than $200,000 in economic losses caused by the disease, along with appropriate punitive damages against any defendant found to have knowingly exposed her and other workers to the deadly fiber without warning or attempting to mitigate the damage.
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.
Even though U.S. environmental regulations prohibited the use of asbestos in many areas in the 1970s, the toxic material is still present in older buildings and products. Those environmental regulations may have limited new exposure, but they by no means put an end to asbestos-related illnesses such as mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer. Unfortunately, people who were exposed to asbestos fibers before the material was banned are still at risk for developing these diseases, and symptoms can take decades to appear.
The logic seems fairly straightforward: If a substance is known to cause cancer, society should avoid that substance and people will stop developing the kind of cancer inspired by exposure to the substance. The logic is fairly straightforward in theory, yet not always in practice. For example, society has long understood that smoking causes a variety of preventable cancers. Yet, cigarettes are still sold in millions of establishments and millions of people begin smoking each year.
The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that asbestos lawsuits against Pfizer can go forward. Although Pfizer itself did not directly make asbestos, one of its subsidiaries did -- Quigley Co., a bankrupt arm of Pfizer that ceased operations in 1992. Quigley manufactured asbestos-containing products for the steel industry between the 1940s and 1970s. In 1968, Pfizer acquired Quigley.
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.
In the U.S. alone, it is estimated that as many as 10,000 people die every year from mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses. Worldwide, that number is as high as 107,000. Asbestos is so toxic that 60 countries have banned its use -- but not the United States.
Public health experts had long suspected that people in the taconite industry are at an increased risk for developing mesothelioma, because at least 82 taconite workers on Minnesota's Iron Range have died from the rare but deadly cancer in recent years.
Despite extensive documentation regarding asbestos and the dangers it presents, there are still individuals and companies that attempt to skirt the strict laws that are in place to protect workers and the public at large. Such a situation recently played out in California, where three executives with a now-out-of-business builder pleaded guilty in federal court to violating the National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants by exposing workers to asbestos.