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Georgia-Pacific LLC recently pledged to advance $1 billion to an asbestos liability trust fund to compensate victims who developed mesothelioma and other asbestos-related cancers as a result of exposure to asbestos caused by one of the company’s subsidiaries. Georgia-Pacific’s affiliate, Bestwall LLC, is currently embroiled in bankruptcy proceedings as part of reorganization proceedings to free the parent company from the legal liability from the subsidiary, which it purchased in 1965.

During its history, Bestwall LLC, formerly known as Bestwall Gypsum Company, manufactured asbestos containing products such as gypsum wallboard, acoustical plaster, joint compounds and drywall adhesives. Bestwall used asbestos, as many companies did for decades, due to the mineral’s heat-resistant properties which allowed it to be molded to fit a variety of industrial, commercial, and military applications.

Unfortunately for workers and consumers, asbestos is a known carcinogen that is directly linked to developing mesothelioma, a rare and deadly form of cancer that commonly affects the thin linings of tissues surrounding the lungs, heart, and abdominal cavity. Even worse, asbestos companies like Bestwall knew for years about the health risks posed by exposure to asbestos but provided no safety precautions or warnings to manufacturing workers, those working with the materials, or consumers about the risks associated with the carcinogenic products. Sadly, thousands of Americans every year receive a mesothelioma cancer diagnosis, leaving most of them with just months to live and few treatment options to improve their prognosis,

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently gave approval to the first new mesothelioma drug treatment combination for patients in the last 16 years. The drug combination, Opdivo (nivolumab) in combination with Yervoy (ipilimumab) are a first-line treatment for adults with malignant pleural mesothelioma that cannot be removed by surgery.

“Today’s approval of nivolumab plus ipilimumab provides a new treatment that has demonstrated an improvement in overall survival for patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma,” said Richard Pazdur, M.D., director of the FDA’s Oncology Center of Excellence and acting director of the Office of Oncologic Diseases in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “In 2004, FDA approved pemetrexed in combination with cisplatin for this indication, and now patients now have an important, additional treatment option after more than a decade with only one FDA-approved drug regimen.”

Malignant pleural mesothelioma is a serious form of cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, and is caused by exposure to carcinogenic asbestos fibers. According to the FDA, about 20,000 Americans develop malignant pleural mesothelioma each year and accounts for most of the mesothelioma cases recorded. Furthermore, most of the patients diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma are not able to have their tumors operated on and this prognosis creates a generally poor survival rate.

Dozens and potentially hundreds of plaintiffs in asbestos cancer lawsuits in New York state have been left in a bind after Governor Andrew Cuomo enacted serious budget cuts to the states’ court systems as a cost saving measure due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The $300 million in cuts to the New York state court system went into effect back in September 2020, after the governor used his executive authority to compensate for the shortfall in his state’s revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Under New York state law, all judges over 70 years old must be recertified every two years by the state court administration. The interplay between the recertification process for judges and the state’s budget shortfall means that  four dozen judges did not receive their recertification, in order for the state to save the state money, and will no longer be hearing cases from the bench as of the start of the new year. Estimates put the savings to the state at around $55 million over the next two years from the court system but these will likely have a significant impact on the plaintiffs awaiting trial.

As a result of these actions by New York state, hundreds of asbestos cancer plaintiffs will have their cases pushed back by weeks or even months and years. Unfortunately, time is not a luxury that many asbestos cancer plaintiffs have, as their mesothelioma cancer diagnosis leaves them with just months to live by the time their doctors inform them of their prognosis. Sadly, many are likely to never have their day in court to confront the asbestos companies that caused their terminal cancer diagnosis.

A New York court recently denied an attempt by the defendant in a talcum powder mesothelioma cancer lawsuit to have the case dismissed, which paves the way for the plaintiffs to have their day in court and seek justice for the harm caused by the defendant’s alleged negligence. In its ruling, the court denied defendant Whittaker Clark and Daniels’ motion for summary judgement to dismiss the claim, as well as denying the company’s bid to have claims of potential punitive damages thrown out.

According to the plaintiff’s mesothelioma cancer lawsuit, filed in New York County Supreme Court, the victim developed mesothelioma for exposure to asbestos fibers in talcum powder products manufactured by defendant Whittaker Clark and Daniels. The plaintiff claimed that during his time working as a barber in New York City from 1961 until he retired in 2016, he frequently breathed in talcum powder dust from the Clubman talc he applied to clients, which he alleges the defendant knowingly manufactured with asbestos fibers.

In its motion to dismiss the case, the defendant alleged that the plaintiff’s mesothelioma diagnosis was not caused by exposure to talc in Whittaker Clark and Daniels’ Clubman talcum powder, but instead by exposure to asbestos in the victim’s native Italy where he lived until he was 25 years old until he immigrated to the United States. Specifically, the defendants claimed that the victim was exposed to asbestos in quarries found in Sicily, Italy. Countering that argument, the plaintiff’s lawyers contended that the victim lived almost 15 miles from the sites in question.

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