According to studies conducted by the EWG Action Fund, about 10,000 people die every year as a result of an asbestos-related illness. Many of the people who get sick and die from exposure to asbestos are victims of inadequate employment practices that left workers without protection from the toxic fiber.
In general, negligent parties can be — and have been — held accountable through lawsuits filed by victims. However, a recent ruling proved to be a strong reminder that there are still people who fail to see the fault in allowing people to be exposed to asbestos.
The case involved Garlock Sealing Technologies, which is a company that manufactured gaskets that contained asbestos. The parts were often used on U.S. Navy ships and many veterans working on these ships breathed in the asbestos dust that was released when the gaskets broke down and needed to be replaced. In the recent lawsuit, it was argued that the company owed money to more than 4,000 people who developed mesothelioma as a result of this exposure. The company itself acknowledged as far back as the 1980s that their products could pose a threat to people.
However, a judge took a dramatically different stance on the issue. It was the judge’s first asbestos case and he ruled that the real victim in the case was Garlock, not the thousands of people who had gotten sick from asbestos exposure. The shocking ruling decreased the amount Garlock was required to pay victims by 90 percent.
In his ruling, the judge argued that the companies like Garlock have been targeted unfairly in the courts for decades and he refused to acknowledge numerous scientific research documents that show there is no safe level of asbestos exposure and that Garlock products have been the source of many asbestos illnesses.
The ruling is not only controversial and upsetting, it is also out of line with the rulings that countless other juries and judges have made in the past. In general, companies may settle out of court or are ordered by the courts to compensate victims and their families. That is why so many people are confused and outraged by this rare and seemingly misguided ruling. Victims should remember that this is not representative of many other asbestos cases where negligent manufacturers and employers are held accountable for their actions and victims are able to collect the compensation they deserve.
Source: The Huffington Post, “An Asbestos Decision That Disserves Our Vets,” Joanne Doroshow, May 8, 2014