North Carolina firefighters face hazards, including smoke, fire and explosions. They may also be exposed to asbestos, which causes fatal diseases, such as mesothelioma and asbestosis. Asbestos fibers are most dangerous when disturbed and released into the air that often occurs when buildings are burning and firefighters are inside attempting to put out the fire. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, firefighters have double the rate of malignant mesothelioma, a fatal asbestos-related disease, than the general population.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Military veterans comprise about 30 percent of all mesothelioma victims. The majority of those exposed to asbestos in the military are U.S. Navy personnel. Although the Navy surgeon general issued a report in 1939 explaining the hazards of asbestos, North Carolina residents may be surprised to hear that the Navy shipbuilding industry continued to use asbestos for at least another 40 years.
Exposure to asbestos-containing products may have devastating consequences. If exposed for long periods of time, asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma can develop. With no known cure and a lengthy latency period, mesothelioma may claim the lives of those in North Carolina suffering without warning. In those situations, family members of the deceased may file a wrongful death suit to hold responsible parties accountable and receive compensation for medical costs, pain and suffering, loss of income and loss of parental guidance or love and companionship.
Many people in North Carolina own older homes and decide that the time has come to remodel. Others flip houses, a usually profitable endeavor that involves purchasing a house, remodeling it and putting it back on the market within a short period of time. These older houses may present potential improvement or profit, but they may also contain unique hazards like asbestos if they were built before asbestos bans and regulations were enacted.
Residents of North Carolina who have been made ill due to asbestos exposure may be concerned to hear that a bill imposing additional requirements on victims suing for asbestos exposure has just passed the North Carolina House Judiciary Committee. This proposed legislation raises concerns for asbestos victims, who may have a more difficult time obtaining compensation if the bill becomes law.