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North Carolina Asbestos Law Blog

Study confirms benefits of trimodal treatment for mesothelioma

A recent study by researchers at the MD Anderson Cancer Center confirms what many North Carolina residents suffering from mesothelioma already know -- mesothelioma patients benefit greatly from undergoing several forms of treatment. The study's researchers found that post-disease diagnosis patients, who undergo multimodal treatment, live almost twice as long as those who do not.

The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, evaluated over 20,000 mesothelioma patients whose information was gathered from the National Cancer Database. From these patients, a subset of individuals diagnosed with similar types and stages of mesothelioma were paired, and then separated into surgical and non-surgical groups.

Woman wins $417 million in talc product liability lawsuit

North Carolina residents should know that Johnson & Johnson (J&J) will now have to pay $417 million to a woman who brought a product liability lawsuit. She allegedly developed ovarian cancer from many years of daily application of the company's talcum powder. The jury found that J&J failed to adequately warn consumers about the cancer risks. This was the largest verdict of its kind against J&J, to date.

Approximately 5,000 people have sued the company over its cancer-causing talcum powder. Newer plaintiffs claim that J&J knew about the risks associated with the product. They paid out over $300 million in damages, yet continued to market the product without adequate warnings.

Securing compensation for foreign claimants

North Carolinian military members may serve abroad, and American employers may have employees working in other countries. But, American-made products are found throughout the world. As such, asbestos exposure does not need to happen in the U.S. for an American citizen to pursue asbestos litigation. In addition, foreign claimants have standing -- just like U.S. citizens -- to bring civil lawsuits in U.S. courts.

Foreign claimants are individuals who are not U.S. citizens or residents, but who suffered asbestos exposure from U.S products. U.S. citizens or residents who were exposed to asbestos in another country file foreign claims. For example, they may have been exposed while serving in the military or working for an American employer. Foreign claimants, as well as those filing foreign claims, may be entitled to compensation for a U.S. asbestos claim.

Early signs of lung disease linked to workplace exposure

A recent study conducted by the Interstitial Lung Disease (ILD) Program at Columbia University Medical Center revealed a link between early signs of lung disease and workplace exposures to vapors, gas, dust and fumes. Interstitial lung disease is a medical term used to describe over 100 types of diseases, characterized by fibrosis in the alveoli of the lungs. ILDs include black lung -- caused by the inhalation of coal mine dust, asbestosis -- an often-fatal asbestos disease affecting the lungs and pulmonary sarcoidosis -- an inflammatory disease often attributed to toxic exposure.

Approximately 40,000 Americans, including North Carolinians, die from ILD each year, according to the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation. The causes of many ILDs are unknown. Therefore, the study's research group sought to identify the causes of early changes in the lungs, preceding the development of ILDs. The research group's goal was to identify the role of one possible cause of ILDs -- workplace exposure -- in changes visible on lung scans, but not producing symptoms.

The benefits of asbestos trust disclosure reforms

In the past few years, there has been a detrimental trend in North Carolina asbestos litigation, according to the director of the Progressive Policy Institute's Center for Civil Justice (CCJ). The trend involves plaintiffs' lawyers hiding pertinent facts. The CCJ director suggests that the implementation of transparency laws, such as the ones recently introduced in 12 other states, would be beneficial for current and future plaintiffs.

The CCJ director notes that evidence is being withheld from juries regarding the companies' asbestos products to which the plaintiff was exposed. In attempts to inflate awards against more profitable companies, plaintiffs may not disclose information regarding their exposure to other, smaller companies' asbestos products. He states that this occurs because asbestos exposure victims may be compensated through two avenues-trusts or litigation.

$480 million North Carolina asbestos trust fund case

Recently, a North Carolina federal judge decided whether Safety National Casualty, Corp., must pay $480 million to the mesothelioma fund. The fund was established in the Chapter 11 bankruptcy plan for Garlock Sealing Technologies, Inc., after Garlock declared bankruptcy in 2010, following years of asbestos litigation. Safety National claims that Garlock is not covered under the $5 million excess policy that Safety National issued to Garlock over 30-years ago.

Garlock manufactured gaskets, which caused cancer in workers. In Garlock's bankruptcy case, the judge ruled that the company was minimally liable for lung damage caused by the asbestos. The type of asbestos used to seal the gaskets was not the type that leads to fatal asbestos-related disease. As such, the judge set Garlock's asbestos liability at $125 million. However, due to continued pressure from asbestos victims, an eventual settlement rose to $480 million.

Clinical trial for pleural mesothelioma drug ends

Mesothelioma patients may be disappointed to learn that a trial of a new mesothelioma drug, anetumab ravtansine, was stopped after the drug was proven to be less effective than an existing drug, vinorelbine. The results of Bayer's Phase II clinical trial showed that the new drug designed to treat recurrent malignant mesothelioma did not slow progression of mesothelioma better than vinorelbine and therefore the trial did not meet its primary endpoint.

One of the reasons the outcome of this trial is so disappointing is because malignant pleural mesothelioma is a difficult disease to treat; patients rarely even respond to the maximum tolerable dose of chemotherapy. Mesothelioma chemotherapy is often an ineffective treatment because it destroys not only cancer cells but also normal, healthy cells. The new drug was designed to avoid this problem by targeting only tumor cells. Anetumab ravtansine is an antibody-drug conjugate which targets tumor cells and delivers a combination of cancer-fighting medication and an antibody that fights mesothelin, a protein that is overproduced by cancer cells.

State asbestos hazard management

The North Carolina Asbestos Hazard Management Program (AHMP) provides information to the public about the dangers of asbestos and how to control or eliminate exposure. The program is administered by the Health Hazards Control Unit (HHCU), which consists of industrial hygiene professionals who also accredit individuals that perform asbestos management. All individuals performing asbestos management in North Carolina must be accredited by the AHMP and any plans to demolish a building must be reported to the HHCU.

The Environmental Protection Agency rules mirror the HHCU in its requirements of inspection and notification prior to demolishing or renovating. These rules are in place to ensure that only accredited professionals handle asbestos, thereby preventing fatal asbestos exposure. Asbestos-containing materials must be removed from any building prior to demolition by accredited professionals.

Asbestos found in makeup sold by national retail chain

An investigative report recently had several samples of makeup tested to determine if there was anything included in the products that was not listed as an ingredient. The report tested the "Just Shine Shimmer Powder" sold by Justice, a popular girls' apparel store. According to the Scientific Analytical Institute in Greensboro, the makeup tested positive not only for heavy metals barium, chromium, lead and selenium, but also tested positive for asbestos.

The Director of Research and Analytical Services at the lab warns about the dangers of asbestos, especially for young children. When inhaled, asbestos fibers get into the lungs and can lead to diseases such as mesothelioma and other forms of cancer. Children who are exposed to asbestos-containing products may still have these fibers in their bodies 50 years from now and malignant mesothelioma may take 20 years or more to surface, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Governor vetoes "garbage juice" spray bill

North Carolina governor, Roy Cooper, recently vetoed legislation that would allow landfills to dispose the liquid that leaks from trash by spraying it into the air in a currently untested process called leachate aerosolization. The process was accepted in other states, but Cooper was hesitant to endorse a measure that may pose a safety hazard to people and the environment. Critics of the bill call the spray, "garbage juice," and question whether mold, viruses and asbestos could travel once released into the air.

The debate over House Bill 576 centers on whether the spraying process is safe. Proponents of the bill argue that while the water will dissipate into the air, contaminants will fall back into the landfill because they are too heavy to travel. Although the bill's sponsor claimed that the technology was safe, he presented no proof or data to support his assertion. In his veto message, Cooper stated that scientists, not the legislature, should determine the safety of such technology.

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