Two Italian Men Sentenced for Causing Thousands of Mesothelioma Deaths
Mesothelioma is a painful, incurable cancer known to be caused by exposure to asbestos. The hazards of asbestos were first identified in the 1920’s, but for years companies ignored the dangers and subjected millions of workers worldwide to the risk of developing mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases. This week, a judge in Turin, Italy, ruled that two men in charge of one such company should be held accountable for causing the death of thousands of their workers and sentenced the men to 16 years in jail.
Eternit Heads Responsible for Deaths and Illnesses
According to ChannelNewsAsia.com, over 3,000 workers of the Eternit cement plants died from mesothelioma or other asbestos-related illnesses, and countless others have been sickened by the toxic material. Asbestos was one ingredient used in making the cement.
Asbestos is a known carcinogen that has been linked to respiratory diseases, including asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lungs that claims the lives of approximately 3,000 Americans each year. Nearly every European country, as well as the United States, have safety regulations in place for handling asbestos and asbestos-containing products to protect workers.
The former owner of the company and a major shareholder in the company were found “guilty of causing an environmental disaster and failing to comply with safety regulations.” In addition to their jail time, the two were ordered to pay 30,000 euros (approximately $39,000) in damages to relatives of people killed by asbestos-related diseases, and 35,000 euros for every sick person. The payouts are expected to total tens of millions of euros.
Asbestos-Related Illness is a Tragedy
Unfortunately, the risk of contracting mesothelioma is a life-long risk once exposed to asbestos. Symptoms of mesothelioma, such as shortness of breath and chest pains, may take as many as 10 to 50 years to develop after a person has been exposed to the mineral. Once diagnosed, mesothelioma progresses rapidly. Although there is no cure for mesothelioma, symptoms can be relieved through the use of surgical procedures, chemotherapy and radiation.
The lead prosecutor in the Italian asbestos trial, Raffaele Guariniello, said in his closing speech in November, “I have never seen such a tragedy. It affects workers and inhabitants… it continues to cause deaths and will continue to do so for who knows how long.”
Mesothelioma Litigation Offers Financial Protection to Victims
Asbestos litigation is the longest running mass tort in U.S. history, with the first case filed in 1929. Hundreds of thousands of people in the United States have filed lawsuits against thousands of defendants after being diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestosis or other asbestos-related diseases.
Many people that do not understand the devastating impact mesothelioma can have on a family believe that mesothelioma lawsuits are frivolous. What may not be clear, however, is that some companies broke laws, tried to hide information and failed to provide adequate protection to their employees – all while knowing mesothelioma was a real risk to their employees.
Italy’s Health Minister Renato Balduzzi said in a statement after the verdict, “It is not a local battle [against asbestos], but a national one, a worldwide one. The Turin verdict shows that Italy is doing its part,” he said.
Last year, the New York law firm of Belluck & Fox, LLP, secured separate verdicts in the United States totaling $32 million and more than $19 million in cases involving individuals who contracted the deadly disease, mesothelioma, after being exposed to asbestos. The companies in the lawsuit were found to have acted with reckless disregard for the safety of others.
Some doctors estimate that mesothelioma treatment can cost anywhere from $150,000 to $1 million, depending on the number of doctors’ visits, cost of surgeries and lengthy hospitalizations, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Most individuals, even with insurance coverage, cannot afford the high cost of treatment for the disease. Compensation from companies can help cover some, if not all, of the associated costs.