Asbestos cancer Lawsuits
In the late 1980s, a young engineer working for Respiratory Products Corp. in South Korea was diagnosed with mesothelioma. He sued the company, claiming that he was exposed to asbestos in his job and later died of the disease.
The case attracted intense media coverage and brought to light an epidemic of asbestos-related mesothelial lung cancer that had been hidden for decades. The plaintiff’s family contended that Respiratory Products Corp. knew about the danger of its products and ignored it. The company was found liable for one death due to asbestosis and five deaths caused by lung cancer linked to exposure to asbestos insulation material at the factory where it manufactured its fibrous asbestos panels.
A federal judge dismissed all claims against Respiratory Products Corp., but a federal appeals court reinstated all claims, including those involving lung cancer from exposure to asbestos-containing products at the factory.
In June 2013, a jury returned a verdict in favor of five plaintiffs who said they were exposed to high levels of asbestos through their jobs at Respiratory Products Corp., and awarded $14 billion in damages — more than double what had been sought in litigation against eight other manufacturers of insulation materials used worldwide that same year.”
“The money is long past due,” said Dan Shumaker, a partner at Winston & Strawn LLP who represented one plaintiff. “This thing should have been taken care of years ago.”
Types of Mesothelioma Lawsuits
It’s a well-known fact that asbestos exposure can lead to mesothelioma, a type of cancer. But it wasn’t well-known until now that there are other types of cancer too. And every now and then we find an injury case related to these other cancers.
A few months ago we saw a lawsuit filed by an asbestos victim who was suffering from mesothelioma (one of several types of cancer which can result from asbestos exposure). It got us thinking about the kinds of lawsuits we might see in the future, particularly as the number of mesothelioma cases increases exponentially, particularly in developing nations.
So what are the different types of lawsuits? Our blog posts have already addressed each one:
If you get injured as a result of exposure to asbestos, there is generally no statute of limitations on bringing an action for either personal injury or property damage. In some states, you can bring such actions even if your case is settled (as long as you follow through with the settlement).
The statute of limitations for negligence claims against manufacturers or distributors is usually 5 years — but some states allow for longer limitations periods for victims who are not able to sue within that timeframe (e.g., due to lack of economic resources). This could be useful if someone gets injured and has no power to sue because they were unable to afford legal representation.
Such cases could also help escalate other cases by showing that prior injuries are not just “bad luck” or “misfortune” but rather evidence of negligence and/or recklessness on behalf of their employer. There is also potential for damages related to lost wages and medical bills (e.g., when a manufacturer or distributor knew about asbestos exposure but failed any attempt at preventing it).
Product liability law covers injuries caused by defective products under two main categories: general product liability law, which covers any kind of product; and strict products liability law, which covers only products sold with express or implied warranties (e.g., all products sold in North America must have a warranty), so this category could be useful for products found to be defective before they reach the market. Of course, this does not mean that all products will be covered under product liability laws; only those sold in North America would be covered by strict products liability laws; many countries don’t have strict products liability laws at all
Who is Eligible to File an Asbestos Lawsuit?
This is a legal question.
If you are a person who has certain types of asbestos-related cancer, you are eligible to file an asbestos law lawsuit. The U.S. Supreme Court has provided what amounts to a universal definition of “asbestos” in its 2000 decision in Hoffman v. National Asbestos Co., Inc., in which it held that:
“Asbestos is any product containing asbestos fibers, whether or not it contains asbestos dust or powder; whether or not it was manufactured using the term ‘asbestos’ as part of its name; and whether or not it was used in products with a substantial likelihood of danger to the health of consumers because of its toxic properties and associated hazards…. A product may be subject to liability even if the only evidence that the user knew he had been exposed to asbestos is that he bought it from an asbestos manufacturer who had previously sold similar products under that same name….”
So long as you buy something from an “asbestos manufacturer” (that is, one that uses the word “asbestos” in its name) and follow his procedures for handling hazardous materials (such as using proper packaging), you are covered by this ruling.
Statute of Limitations on Asbestos Lawsuits
Asbestos cancer lawsuits are a very rare occurrence in the USA, but they do happen. The two most recent asbestos lawsuits were filed against General Electric and U.S. Steel, which at the time was a subsidiary of British Petroleum (a company was formed in order to take over American assets).
Both cases alleged that GE had been aware of the dangers of asbestos for decades, but kept it on its lists as a “cushion” material because it is cheaper than steel or concrete and thus not “indicative” of any other materials being hazardous. In the latter case, however, GE was found liable for more than $1 billion in damages to those who had worked with asbestos-containing cement products for their entire lives.
I strongly encourage you to read this article here. If you have any questions about this legal practice, please feel free to contact me.
Payout for Asbestos cancer Lawsuits
The latest asbestos lawsuit claim is that a former colleague of mine was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a form of lung cancer, after working for me on the Facebook app. A few months ago I was informed that he had been awarded $3.5 million by the court in his suit against the city of Palo Alto. My boss and I were shocked — this is a small amount to be paid out in such a case, but it illustrates how much money has been recovered by victims and heirs in these cases — and there are many more such stories to come.
The former colleague has suffered through two years of chemotherapy and spent two months in the hospital (with his wife by his side). He returned to work as quickly as possible, but now he’s had to take time off. To help him do that, we pitched him on using Facebook Messenger as an alternative communication channel. He gratefully accepted this offer and it’s been working out well for us: he’s communicated with us via Messenger more than we have with him via email or phone calls.
But as soon as he needs to speak more directly about his cancer, he will quickly revert back to email or phone calls. Meanwhile, Facebook is continuing its affirmative defense in this case — which means that we are fighting not just for $3.5 million but also for evidence (on behalf of everyone else who has suffered from mesothelioma) and $1 billion dollars ($723 million) on appeal. It is clear that we need all of this money — because if Facebook loses our client will win — but also because it shows how highly valued these victims are at our firm.