Asbestos is a mineral with a fibrous or crystal like appearance. Used on a wide scale in commercially made products since the industrial revolution, the substance was incorporated into everything from building materials to clothing. The material’s unique properties made it ideal when resistance to breakage, fire, chemicals or electricity was needed.
The crystalline fibers in asbestos are prone to separation and breakage, subsequently emitting microscopic dust and particles into the air. Frequent asbestos exposure over extended periods contributes to numerous health conditions including asbestosis and the rare but deadly form of cancer, mesothelioma.
While asbestos was linked to cancer as early as the 1950’s, the strongest evidence did not become available until the 1970’s, made available by Senate testimony and lawsuits brought forth in the 1960’s. In 1973, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals applied strict liability in asbestos cases. Since that time, nearly all asbestos manufacturers have gone bankrupt. Most direct exposure claims have been compensated. However, the extended latency period for mesothelioma means many asbestos claims should be expected in the coming years.
Second Hand Exposure Lawsuits
Many industrial employees subject to chronic exposure unwittingly carried the contaminant home on work apparel. A family member in close contact with the clothing inhales the dust and particulates, eventually suffering illness related to second hand or “take home exposure”. Handling the clothing within a closed environment, also introduces harmful substances into the air. These loved ones endure the same cumulative effects and diseases as those who come in direct contact with asbestos.
While corporations do not believe they are responsible for the health and well being of individuals outside of the company, courts are ruling in favor of the families. Likewise, studies have shown that individuals residing close to companies or mines dealing with asbestos material also suffer off-site exposure and subsequent illness.
Companies Profiting from Asbestos Exposure
Even though most asbestos manufacturers have gone bankrupt, many more companies and corporations continue to be forced into bankruptcy to cover legal expenses and claim rewards. Some are finding a means to profit from their unfortunate circumstances. Private investors have begun buying claims and liabilities, for a reduced cost, from insurance companies in exchange for access to insurance and Federal Reserve monies, which will then be invested for profit.
Smokers and Asbestos Exposure Lawsuits
While courts passed down sympathetic judgment for employees, families and others who endure illness due to asbestos exposure, some felt smokers were not entitled to the same benefits. The courts were of the opinion that assigning symptoms primarily to asbestos exposure when other contributing factors exist would be too difficult. However, the Supreme Court overruled the lesser courts, upholding the right of any individual, with a possible asbestos related illness, to seek compensation through the court system.
These new trends in asbestos lawsuits require the expertise of attorney’s with a deep understanding of asbestos claims. If you or someone you love became ill from working with or near asbestos, contact our office for a free consultation and evaluation of your case.