(Updated July 18, 2023)
Every year thousands of Americans are diagnosed with mesothelioma, a fatal form of cancer caused by exposure to or by inhaling asbestos fibers. Asbestos is a term applied to six types of cancer-causing minerals that are made up of long, thin, and very strong fibers, and the fibers do not evaporate or dissolve in water. Research has extensively linked asbestos to mesothelioma since the early 1930s.
However, companies have continued to use the hazardous mineral for their own gain. For years the asbestos industry has paid millions to help shape pro-asbestos research in order to help thwart the multiple attempts to ban the carcinogen in the U.S. In doing so, it has made asbestos litigation the longest mass tort in American history, and unfortunately, there is no end in sight.
COMPANIES HAVE AND CONTINUE TO ENDANGER WORKERS WITH ASBESTOS
For years, asbestos has been known to cause cancer. However, companies today continue to use asbestos in their building materials, home goods, and other materials today. The dangerous mineral has made its mark throughout history as it has been found in artifacts dating back to the Stone Age and Ancient Egypt. However, asbestos was not widely used until the beginning of the 20th century.
Thanks to its cheap costs and durable qualities with its heat and chemical-resistant properties, asbestos jumped in popularity and was used in building materials, insulation, talc-based products, automotive parts, and textiles. Between the 1930s and 1970s, the U.S. Navy also found great use for the mineral, with nearly every Naval ship containing several tons of asbestos.
By the 1970s, studies found that exposure to asbestos was linked to cancer and proved it was a carcinogen. The research found that when the fibers were inhaled, they stick to the protective mesothelium layer of organs for years and, over time, caused the creation of cancerous cells.
Unfortunately, those who have been exposed to asbestos and have developed mesothelioma will not often not present symptoms for anywhere from 15-20 years. Once diagnosed, due to the extremely aggressive nature of this cancer, half of the patients will succumb to the disease within 18 months.
Even with the research data to back up the claims made behind the dangers of asbestos, many companies continued to use the mineral, risking the lives of their employees. In 1966, Bendix Corporation released an internal memo asking their employees, “If you have enjoyed a good life while working with asbestos products, why not die from it?”
Over the years, companies have tried to bury the truth of the dangers behind asbestos. The cover-up was so extensive that Dr. Nicholas Ashford, former chair of the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety & Health, refered to asbestos as “the most criminal industry.”
FORD SPENDS $40 MILLION ON PRO-ASBESTOS RESEARCH
Since the 1980s, the Ford Motor Company has been named in thousands of lawsuits as a result of asbestos use in its auto parts, including brakes, clutches, and gaskets. Then in 2001, Ford, frustrated from losing lawsuits against patients diagnosed with mesothelioma, spent $40 million on pro-asbestos research. Ford-funded researchers and expert testimonies argued that auto mechanics, who were exposed to asbestos-contaminated brake dust, were not at increased risk of developing mesothelioma.
Today, the company continues to support that its mechanics were safe from asbestos exposure. In its 2022 annual report, the auto company continues to state that “We are prepared to defend these cases and believe that the scientific evidence confirms our long-standing position that there is no increased risk of asbestos-related disease as a result of exposure to the type of asbestos formerly used in the brakes on our vehicles.” The industry also claims that some forms of asbestos, including chrysotile asbestos, are safe when used in controlled environments. The World Health Organization, however, says all forms of asbestos cause cancer.
THE LONGEST MASS TORT IN HISTORY
Mesothelioma patients started filing workers comp claims as early as the 1960s. A mass district litigation (MDL) in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, initially formed in 1991, has overseen the majority of recent mesothelioma lawsuits. To date, it’s estimated that more than 8,500 defendants and 700,000 claimants have been involved in asbestos-related lawsuits. Experts predict that asbestos litigation will reach $200 to $265 billion in compensation.
TRUST FUNDS AWARD BILLIONS IN COMPENSATION
The volume of high settlements and verdicts associated with mesothelioma lawsuits has bankrupted the majority of asbestos manufacturers. To date, 100 companies that formerly manufactured or used asbestos have declared bankruptcy. However, even if the company responsible for a patient’s mesothelioma is no longer in business, it doesn’t mean that the patient can’t receive compensation. Many of these companies created bankruptcy funds to settle asbestos-related lawsuits.
Asbestos trust funds have awarded nearly $20 billion to claimants. The Manville Corporation, the leading asbestos manufacturer of its time, established the first of these trust funds in 1988. When the company declared bankruptcy in 1982, it was the largest and richest company at the time to ever do so. Their asbestos trust fund paid $4.3 billion to claimants as of 2013. To date, 60 trusts exist, which together have awarded nearly $20 billion to claimants and an estimated $30 billion left.
LIBBY, MONTANA, DECLARED ASBESTOS PUBLIC EMERGENCY
The company that likely has the most blood on its hands is W.R. Grace and Company. The company owned a vermiculite ore mine in Libby, Montana, from 1963 to 1990. The mine released asbestos dust, contaminating the town’s air, soil, and water. In 2011, a $43 million settlement was reached to compensate miners and their families. The town has since been declared a public health emergency by the EPA, marking the first asbestos-related health emergency.
An estimated 400 people have died from exposure, and 1,750 have suffered from an asbestos-related disease. W.R. Grace and Company has since faced 270,000 asbestos-related lawsuits. They filed for bankruptcy in 2001, setting aside $4 billion in an asbestos trust. Montana agencies were also held liable for failing to warn residents of the dangers posed by the mine. In 2011, a $43 million settlement was reached to compensate miners and their families.
WHO CAN BE HELD LIABLE FOR MESOTHELIOMA?
According to the American Cancer Society, 8 out of 10 people with mesothelioma inhaled, swallowed, or exposed to asbestos. In the case of those parties who are typically liable, mesothelioma lawsuits include but are not limited to the following:
- Asbestos manufacturers
- Building owners
- Manufacturers of asbestos products
- Retailers that sold asbestos-containing products
If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, we may be able to help you hold those parties responsible accountable. For more information, connect with us today.
WHO IS ELIGIBLE FOR A MESOTHELIOMA LAWSUIT?
Anyone who has been diagnosed with mesothelioma or the survivors of mesothelioma victims may be eligible to file a lawsuit. For more information regarding if you or your loved ones may be eligible to file a lawsuit, speaking to a qualified attorney can help.
WHAT CAN I RECOVER FROM A MESOTHELIOMA LAWSUIT?
While compensation for mesothelioma lawsuits may vary, however, victims may be eligible to recover compensation for the following:
- Medical bills
- Loss of wages
- Pain and suffering
- Wrongful death
- Funeral expenses
For a more accurate estimation regarding the compensation you may be eligible to recover, we highly recommend speaking with an experienced attorney.
WE CAN HELP
While it may seem as though there is no end in sight for the asbestos litigation, our law firm is more than equipped to handle your asbestos case. If you or a loved one were diagnosed with mesothelioma, you may be entitled to compensation. For over 35 years, our attorneys have helped thousands of mesothelioma victims across the United States recover millions of dollars, making them uniquely qualified to handle mesothelioma litigation. To learn more information regarding mesothelioma, victims can contact a class action attorney today for a free, no-obligation legal review.
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