In what may seem like a landmark victory for mine and factory workers exposed to toxic chemicals, a company has been found 100 percent liable for a worker's exposure to asbestos fibers and his ultimate death from mesothelioma. The company is responsible for a $2.86 million award to the worker's family. However, this case illustrates the plight of mine and factory workers in North Carolina and throughout the United States, as millions of these workers over the last several decades have been unknowingly exposed to asbestos, and many of them eventually will suffer the ravages of this swift and deadly disease.
It may surprise many people to learn that almost one-third of all reported cases of mesothelioma involve veterans of the military. Primarily, those in the U.S. Navy who served aboard ships and in shipyards were most affected. This is because asbestos, the fiber that has been linked to causing mesothelioma, was heavily utilized in the shipping industry.
You may think you've heard this story before. A railroad company that is sued for exposing workers to asbestos is not an isolated incident. Sadly, because of the extreme levels of exposure and negligence in the industry historically, many workers are only now seeing the damage that was done to them. In another class action lawsuit, BNSF Railway is being sued by former railroad workers who developed serious lung diseases while on the job.
Right up through the 1980s, asbestos was referred to as the "miracle material" and was used in machines for everything from insulation to fireproof coatings. It is a strong and flexible fiber, can resist fire and extreme heat, and was relatively cheap to get. For these, and other, reasons, asbestos was used widely in many manufacturing and construction industries.
An Arizona appeals court has denied a widow the right to sue in the state for her husband's wrongful death. He died of mesothelioma, which is a lung disease often contracted from breathing in asbestos fibers. In this case, he breathed in those fibers while working in a power plant, and his widow sought damages from the designers of the facility.
Last year, a judge ruled that one man would receive $322 million for damages related to asbestos. It was the largest amount awarded to a single plaintiff in the United States. Unfortunately, the company that was sued appealed the decision and the case was retried. On the second round, the company won their case. How could this happen?
Railroad workers are among those who have very likely been exposed to dangerous levels of asbestos. Previously used to protect trains from the extreme heat generated during operation, asbestos was responsible for causing the wrongful death of many railroad workers. Recently, seven injured railroad workers filed a suit against their former employer for exhibiting negligence on the job.
Victims of asbestos-related diseases have a right to hold those responsible for their condition accountable. The sooner that happens, however, the better the outcome may be. An unfortunate reality of the legal process is that it can take time for personal injury cases to work their way through the system. Lawyers defending companies charged with negligence may use additional stalling tactics in an attempt to save themselves money. Recently, a man tragically and needlessly passed away just minutes after he finished answering questions from the defense. Was this their goal?
Removing asbestos and materials that contain asbestos needs to be done by certified removal experts. Proper government associations must also be notified of the dangerous material so that it can be removed and stored properly and safely. Many people do not believe the processes or precautions are seriously monitored. Instead, they put other people in danger by allowing them to handle asbestos without warning them about the dangers.
Shipyards used to be common places to find asbestos in products. Shipbuilders previously manufactured parts using asbestos because it the fiber is heat-resistant and inexpensive. However, in many cases, it wasn't until it was too late that the dangers of asbestos exposure were realized. Employers at these locations are now being sued for the wrongful deaths of many former employees.