Mesothelioma and the Law
Mesothelioma is one of the greatest health risks of our generation and is widely considered an injustice to the thousands of victims of this devastating disease. Mesothelioma is a unique cancer since it is, essentially, a preventable condition caused by exposure to asbestos. Victims of this disease are often workers that were exposed to toxic environments and did not know that their health was at risk. Quite often, employees were not informed by their companies and employers about the risks to their health and safety.
Mesothelioma, Asbestos, and the Law
By the time victims are diagnosed with the cancer, their life expectancy is often only one year. Common symptoms of the disease can include a dry cough, coughing up blood, difficulty swallowing, fatigue, chest pain, and shortness of breath. The asbestos cancer can lay dormant for 10 to 70 years after exposure – making it difficult for unsuspecting victims to place where they were exposed to asbestos.
Asbestos was often used as a type of insulation due to its fire resistant properties. Because of its prevalent use in industrial settings over the last 100 years (including use in everything from cigarettes to brake pads to war ships during World War II), many workers were exposed to asbestos. Many companies and suppliers of asbestos knew of the dangers associated with asbestos and medical documentation of asbestos-related deaths began as early as 1924. But asbestos continued to be used by manufacturers because it was a cheap and versatile material that could be used in a variety of applications. For many industries, using asbestos was simply a way to save money and increase profits despite the obvious health risks.
As deaths related to asbestos exposure increased in the 20th century, so did regulation and litigation. In the 1960s, Dr. Irving Selikoff established a link between asbestos exposure and lung-related diseases. In 1966, the first asbestos lawsuit was filed in Texas by a worker who had been diagnosed with asbestosis, a disease related to asbestos exposure. The case was unsuccessful but subsequent lawsuits eventually demonstrated the asbestos industry purposely failed to inform workers of the dangers of asbestos.
One significant effect of these lawsuits was the rise of government regulation of asbestos and new protections for workers to limit exposure. Despite those protections, it is estimated that nearly 1.3 million workers experience significant asbestos exposure every day. On May 29, 1971 the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) created 36 FR 10466, which established a “permissible exposure limit” that limited the amount of asbestos fibers per cubic centimeter in a given working environment. Other later regulations mandated that employers provide proper respiration masks and equipment to workers, inform workers of the risks of exposure, and provide relevant training. Rules also governed the type of equipment (e.g., the type of respirators, body suits, and disposal bags), and the method used to remove asbestos, and the proper actions to take when working with materials that may potentially contain asbestos.
Over the next 20 years, OSHA continued to tighten regulations that were designed to protect workers and further regulate the construction industry (since it was especially prone to asbestos exposure). At the same time, OSHA worked with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to coordinate regulations between the two agencies. In 1989, the EPA’s creation of 40 CFR, also known as the “Asbestos Ban and Phaseout Rule,” banned many asbestos containing products. In 1991, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the rule. That reduced the number of banned asbestos products but continued to ban any new products that did not historically contain asbestos.
Mesothelioma and Your Legal Rights
As a result of asbestos litigation that began in the 1960s, lawsuits seeking compensation for mesothelioma are common today. The lawsuits fall under a type of law called torts, where a legal entity, such as a person or company, is responsible for someone else’s injury or damage. In 1969, the first successful asbestos-related lawsuit occurred in Borel v. Fibreboard Paper and sparked a wave of litigation for mesothelioma victims since it established that manufacturers had a responsibility to inform workers of the dangers of their asbestos products. Litigation has continued to this day.
Approximately 2,000 to 3,000 new victims are diagnosed with the disease each year. More often than not, negligent companies and asbestos suppliers are to blame because they failed to protect innocent people from this disease. Victims of mesothelioma can pursue legal action to recover benefits and compensation based on personal injury laws.
At Belluck and Fox, our personal injury attorneys have recovered over $500 million in compensation and benefits for our clients suffering from asbestos-related diseases. After contacting our firm, you will be contacted personally by Mr. Belluck or Mr. Fox. Next, we schedule a consultation to meet with you to determine if you have a personal injury claim, explain the process of how a lawsuit develops, and begin to gather your medical, life, and work histories.
If we determine you have a legal claim that is actionable, we will begin researching the company responsible for your cancer. We often do not sue your employer, which is prohibited under workers’ compensation law, but instead we sue the manufacturers, distributors, and suppliers of the asbestos materials involved in your case. We then will file a legal claim on your behalf in state court; we may also ask the court to expedite your case quickly due to the aggressive nature of mesothelioma. Once the case is scheduled, the discovery process will begin, and we will secure evidence, documents and expert testimony needed to support your case. The discovery process allows both the plaintiff and the defendant to gather relevant information about your case. Once the discovery process ends, your case is ready for a trial date and, eventually, conclusion.
Many times, as the case progresses, defendants will opt to settle your case out of court before the trial begins. However, if we do not receive a fair settlement for your claim, we will advise you of your litigation options. A personal injury trial could compensate you for damages caused by mesothelioma, including lost income, pain and suffering, medical bills and loss of consortium. In addition, if a family member has died from mesothelioma, a wrongful death claim can be filed to recover compensation for the surviving relatives.
Regardless of how the case develops, we tailor our expertise to handle the specific details of your claim and provide professional representation for you. Contact our experienced staff and attorneys at Belluck and Fox at 877-235-4025, and we will help you hold negligent companies responsible for the benefits you deserve.