Mesothelioma is a deadly type of cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, chest cavity or abdomen, and the most common cause of the disease is exposure to asbestos dust or fibers at work or in the home. Asbestos is a group of minerals with thin microscopic fibers, and because the fibers are resistant to fire, heat and chemicals, asbestos was used widely in the past in the automotive, construction and other industries. However, we now know that when products containing asbestos are disturbed, the microscopic fibers are released into the air, and when they are breathed in, can become trapped in the lungs and remain there for many years. This may lead to the development of malignant mesothelioma, which has a latency period of 30 to 50 years and is almost always fatal. If you have suffered from this deadly cancer and you believe asbestos exposure to be the cause, contact an experienced mesothelioma lawyer today to discuss your legal options.
In the United States, malignant mesothelioma is so commonly associated with asbestos exposure that the connection between the two has been considered “indisputable.” The deadly cancer is most often diagnosed in individuals who worked in jobs where they ingested or inhaled asbestos fibers, or were exposed to airborne asbestos in other ways, and the family members of these workers have also been exposed to asbestos secondhand, from dust or fibers brought home on their clothes. Asbestos has been widely used in a variety of industries since the early 1940s, and, although use of the material has been heavily restricted in recent years, estimates put the number of Americans exposed to asbestos since that time in the millions.
Diagnosing mesothelioma in its early stages can be a difficult task because the initial symptoms of the disease can resemble those of other diseases or even common illnesses. In some cases, the first recognizable symptoms of mesothelioma may not occur until decades after the initial exposure, due to the cancer’s long latency period. Although mesothelioma can present in different ways depending on the affected individual, the most common symptoms of the cancer are as follows:
Because asbestos was used so widely in the past, before the harmful effects of the material were discovered and made public, exposure to the material was far-reaching. Not only can mesothelioma affect those who worked directly with asbestos on the job, but family members may also be at risk for the disease if they inhaled or ingested asbestos fibers carried home on the clothes or in the hair of workers exposed to asbestos firsthand. The individuals considered to be at the highest risk for mesothelioma related to asbestos exposure include:
Asbestos was also used as insulation for many older homes, as well as commercial buildings and schools throughout the country, which expands the population of those potentially exposed to the dangerous material. As a general rule, individuals exposed to asbestos at an early age, at high levels, for a long period of time face the greatest risk of developing mesothelioma.
The potential for asbestos exposure to cause mesothelioma and other life-threatening diseases was known for decades by manufacturing companies and others in the asbestos industry, yet these dangers were never brought to the attention of the public, and men and women across the country who have suffered serious illnesses due to asbestos exposure are now pursuing legal claims against their employers and the manufacturers of asbestos-containing products, alleging that they were never properly warned about the risks of asbestos. One of the largest groups of people affected by mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases is veterans, many of whom were exposed to asbestos in Navy ships and on army bases around the world.
There have been a number of significant verdicts delivered in mesothelioma cases over the years, and in 2002, when the manufacture of asbestos was halted in the United States, the risk of asbestos exposure shifted from workers in asbestos mills and factories, cement pipe fabrication, and insulation manufacture and installation, to maintenance workers in older buildings containing asbestos. Many of these workers unknowingly came in contact with asbestos dust or fibers on the job, or brought asbestos home on their clothes, exposing their families to the dangerous material and its associated medical conditions. Unfortunately, research has shown that even people exposed to very low levels of asbestos on-the-job or in their homes may be at risk for developing mesothelioma cancer.
1979 – The first writs for negligence related to the presence of asbestos in the town of Wittenoom, Western Australia, are issued against CSR and its ABA subsidiary, and the Asbestos Disease Society is established to represent the Wittenoom victims.
1994 – Two cases involving individuals exposed to asbestos while living near the Midland Works asbestos factory, part of the Turner & Newall group, in Leeds, England are heard as one. One case involves a man who lived almost his entire life on the same property approximately 200 yards away from Midland Works, and died in 1991 from mesothelioma. The other case involves a woman who had also grown up next to Midland Works, and was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 1993, dying in 1997, following the mesothelioma-related death of her mother in 1982. A third plaintiff died from mesothelioma in 1993, but had no surviving family members to continue his action against T&N after his death. At this time, 12 additional victims seeking compensation from T&N had also died before their cases reached court. The judge finds for the plaintiffs and rules that the defendant was liable on the grounds that it knew about the risks of asbestos dust as early as 1933.
1998 – With 263,000 injury claims pending against the company, T&N is acquired by a multinational auto-parts conglomerate, which claims that it will “set up a reserve for approximately $2.1 billion to handle the estimated asbestos liability post-acquisition.” Instead, the company lobbies Congress for a legislative solution to its asbestos “issues,” seeking a government bailout.
November 2004 – Law firms representing 50 claimants from neighborhoods surrounding the Midland Works asbestos factory in Leeds, England secure payment for their clients. All 50 claimants have already died by the time the payments are made.
November 2009 – A woman who developed mesothelioma after washing the clothes of her grandfather, an insulation worker, is awarded $20 million by a Baltimore City jury.
May 2010 – A construction worker is awarded $14 million in a mesothelioma lawsuit filed against Union Carbide, over his exposure to the chemical manufacturer’s asbestos-containing joint compounds.
May 2011 – A California jury awards more than $41 million in damages to a retired plumber diagnosed with mesothelioma after working with joint compounds and wallboards that contained asbestos.
August 2011 – A former boiler tender for the U.S. Navy is awarded $32 million in a lawsuit filed against several companies who supplied asbestos-containing parts for the ships he worked on prior to developing mesothelioma.
November 2011 – A $10 million settlement is reached in a lawsuit filed by the family of a long-time Missouri courthouse worker who died from mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos on the job.
January 2012 – The widow of a deceased chemical company worker is awarded $8.4 million in damages for her husband’s mesothelioma death.
June 2012 – A verdict of $48 million is delivered in a lawsuit filed by the family of a cement contractor and construction superintendent diagnosed with mesothelioma after being exposed to Union Carbide asbestos products.
June 2013 – A woman diagnosed with mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos while washing her insulator husband’s work clothes over a number of years is awarded $27.3 million in damages.
July 2013 – A blockbuster $190 million verdict is awarded by a New York jury to tradesmen who filed a claim against two boiler companies for exposing them to asbestos in the workplace.
December 2013 – $8.5 million in damages is awarded to the family of a California refinery worker who was exposed to asbestos while working with pipe insulation, and subsequently died from mesothelioma.
March 2014 – $7.25 million is awarded to the family of a former naval shipyard worker who died from mesothelioma allegedly caused by his exposure to asbestos at the Philadelphia Naval Yard during the 1960s.
January 2014 – A California jury awards $11 million in damages to the family of a mechanic who was exposed to asbestos while working to service and repair heavy duty vehicles between 1994 and 1999.
June 2014 – The family of an auto mechanic who died from mesothelioma is awarded $10.9 million in damages, after it is discovered that the fatal caner was caused by his exposure to asbestos in brake pads and other auto parts.
June 2014 – An asbestos exposure lawsuit filed on behalf of two electricians in New York who were diagnosed with mesothelioma results in a $25 million verdict for the plaintiffs.
November 2014 – A mesothelioma lawsuit brought by a former U.S. Navy machinist who was exposed to asbestos on-the-job is awarded $71 million in damages.
January 2015 – The family of a New York school bus driver who died from mesothelioma cancer is awarded $7.7 million in damages, after it is discovered that he was exposed to asbestos used in clutches, brakes, gaskets and other bus parts.
June 2015 – An Oklahoma jury awards $6 million in damages to a man diagnosed with mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos second-hand as a child, and first-hand as an adult.
October 2015 – A verdict of $3.5 million is delivered in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of an Alabama woman who died from second-hand exposure to asbestos fibers carried home on her husband’s work clothes.
October 1960 – A study published in the British Journal of Industrial Medicine highlights more than 30 cases of mine workers and other individuals in South Africa who suffered from mesothelioma, establishing mesothelioma as a disease arising from asbestos exposure.
December 1962 – The Medical Journal of Australia reports the first diagnosed case of malignant mesothelioma in an Australian asbestos worker, who worked in the mill at an asbestos mine from 1948 to 1950.
1965 – Research published in the British Journal of Industrial Medicine reports that people who lived in neighborhoods with asbestos factories and mines had contracted mesothelioma, even though they didn’t work in the factories or mines.
1974 – Australia’s Bulletin magazine publishes a cover story about the dangers of exposure to blue asbestos titled “Is this Killer in Your Home?”
March 2009 – A study published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine finds that workers in the textile industry exposed to crysotile asbestos on the job have a higher risk of developing lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis cancer of the pleura.
June 2009 – Researchers from Duke University find that sheet metal workers may face a greater risk of developing mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer, and other asbestos-related diseases.
September 2011 – The medical journal Lung Cancer publishes a study conducted by researchers from the Netherlands, who report that they may have developed a device that can detect and diagnose mesothelioma via a breath test.
January 2014 – The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine publishes research indicating that even people exposed to very low levels of asbestos may be at risk for mesothelioma.
March 2014 – A study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology reports that there may be a genetic component to the risk of developing mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos.
June 2014 – The medical journal Annals of Thoracic Surgery finds that survival rates for women with some forms of malignant pleural mesothelioma may be longer than men with the same type of cancer.
July 2014 – In a study published in the medical journal Oncotarget, researchers from the University of Torino in Italy report that a certain enzyme may enhance the aggressiveness of malignant pleural mesothelioma, and could be a predictor of worse outcomes in people diagnosed with the deadly cancer.
September 2014 – The British Journal of Cancer publishes research indicating that long-term survival among people diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma may not have much to do with specific treatment methods.
May 2015 – Research published in the Annals of Thoracic Surgery suggests that early-stage mesothelioma patients may actually experience decreased lung function and a lower quality of life if they undergo surgery to remove the cancerous tissue from their lungs.
September 2015 – Combining standard chemotherapy with a manipulation of certain proteins may improve the survival time for some people diagnosed with mesothelioma, according to a study published in the journal Annals of Oncology.
The first lawsuits against asbestos manufacturers were filed in 1929, and since then, a growing number of claims have been brought against employers and the makers of asbestos products, for allegedly neglecting to take the appropriate safety measures to protect workers against asbestos exposure and mesothelioma cancer, even after the link between asbestos and mesothelioma became known. In fact, more than 600,000 individuals diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma and other illnesses after prolonged exposure to asbestos in the workplace have brought asbestos-related claims during the past few decades alone. Lawsuits filed over mesothelioma, asbestosis and other asbestos-related illnesses allege that employers and manufacturing companies who made asbestos-containing products in the past:
Exposure to asbestos on the job has been recognized as an occupational health hazard since the early 20th century, and about 3,000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma every year in the United States, many of whom were initially exposed to asbestos decades prior. According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “permissible exposure limits” established in the United States may prevent most asbestos-related non-malignant diseases, but they are not adequate enough to protect individuals from developing asbestos-related cancers like mesothelioma. If you have developed malignant mesothelioma caused by asbestos exposure, our consumer advocates at the Consumer Justice Foundation can help. We are dedicated to protecting the rights of consumers who were injured or died because of a defective product, and can help put you in touch with an experienced lawyer who can help you pursue the financial compensation you deserve.