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A New York state appeals court recently heard arguments in a case brought by a plaintiff who claims he developed mesothelioma cancer after he signed a settlement release with the company he accused of causing his mesothelioma cancer by exposure to asbestos. The New York Court of Appeals will decide whether part of the Federal Employer’s Liability Act negates a settlement release signed by the plaintiff in the case nearly two-decades ago and allow his claim against his previous employer to move forward.

The plaintiff in the case originally brought his asbestos lawsuit against Texaco in 2014, claiming he developed mesothelioma cancer while he served as a seaman in the Merchant Marine for nearly 40 years. The plaintiff had filed a previous lawsuit against Texaco, along with more than 100 other individuals, in federal court during the 1990s over a pulmonary injury suffered from exposure to asbestos and second-hand smoke on merchant ships.

Texaco and the plaintiff resolved the first claim, with the plaintiff and other co-plaintiffs signing settlement releases which sought to discharge the company from any future liability over the health effects of asbestos exposure. The settlement release read in part the plaintiff “understands that the long term effects of exposure to asbestos … may result in obtaining a new and different diagnosis from the diagnosis as of the date of this release.”

A New York state Supreme Court judge recently issued an important ruling allowing a mesothelioma cancer lawsuit against cigarette manufacturer R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company and its supplier Hollingsworth & Vose. The mesothelioma cancer lawsuit claims that the defendants knew or should have known the asbestos contained in their cigarette filters were dangerous and could cause serious health problems for consumers.

According to the asbestos cancer lawsuit, filed in the Supreme Court of New York County, the plaintiff developed pleural mesothelioma as a result of smoking Kent brand cigarettes, marketed and sold by R.J. Reynolds with materials sourced by Hollingsworth & Vose, in the 1950s. The plaintiff alleges the filters in those cigarettes contained asbestos, which the defendants were aware could cause health complications.

The defendants filed various motions to have the case thrown out of court and dismissed without a trial, claiming they should not be held liable for the plaintiff’s injuries because the health effects of asbestos exposure were not widely known at the time the plaintiff smoked Kent brand cigarettes. Asbestos has only been regulated by the federal government since the 1970s, but due to its widespread use before restrictions were adopted, many companies were fully aware that their asbestos laden products posed a danger to the general public.

A California state jury is slated to hear opening arguments in an asbestos talcum powder lawsuit filed against pharmaceutical and cosmetics giant Johnson & Johnson over allegations that the company knew for decades about the health risks associated with its talc-based products. The asbestos cancer lawsuit names Johnson & Johnson and its supplier, Imerys Talc USA, as defendants and seeks compensation for past and future medical bills, lost wages, and the pain and suffering of living with the mesothelioma cancer diagnosis.

According to the talcum powder asbestos cancer lawsuit, filed in Alameda County California Superior Court, the plaintiff developed mesothelioma from years of using asbestos-contaminated talcum powder products developed and manufactured by Johnson & Johnson with materials sourced by Imerys Talc USA. The lawsuit claims that despite knowing for decades about the health risks of asbestos exposure from tainted talcum powder, Johnson & Johnson continued to market and sell these same products without any warning labels for consumers.

The trial is the first one of this type scheduled this year against Johnson & Johnson and the first since a report by Reuters which showed that the company knew about positive asbestos tests on its talcum powder sourced by Imerys USA. That report looked at thousands of pages of internal Johnson & Johnson company files that showed both company tests and those conducted by outside labs confirmed the presence of potentially deadly levels of asbestos in its talc supply.

A recent report by Reuters claims that pharmaceutical and cosmetics giant Johnson & Johnson knew for decades about the risk of asbestos contaminating its talc-based products, but did nothing to warn consumers about the dangers of exposure to the deadly carcinogen. Those claims come after the news outlet examined thousands of pages of internal company documents going back to the 1970s through the early 2000s that show Johnson & Johnson withheld information about asbestos from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

According to the article, Johnson & Johnson’s first recorded knowledge of potential asbestos contamination in its talc comes from 1957 and 1958 reports by a consulting lab describing contaminants in its products from the supplier. Those contaminants were described by the consulting lab as fibrous and acicular tremolite, one of the six-naturally occuring forms of asbestos.

Over the next several decades, other reports by Johnson & Johnson’s own scientists, outside consulting labs, and suppliers would show similar findings, including one identifying contaminants in the talc as “fiberform” and “rods.” Despite these obvious red flags, Johnson & Johnson chose not to put any warning labels on its talc-based products and allowed its potentially deadly items to remain on the market.

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