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Articles Posted in Companies & Asbestos

Asbestos is a group of minerals that occur naturally in soil and rock. It is made up of heat-resistant fibers. Apart from being resistant to heat, asbestos is also resistant to rot and rust. Because of its properties, asbestos is considered a very versatile product. However, as much as asbestos might sound harmless, the truth is that asbestos exposure can lead to the development of aggressive and deadly diseases like mesothelioma. Being exposed to asbestos once is enough to lead to the development of an illness.

Unfortunately, there is still no widespread ban on asbestos in the United States of America. In the U.S., asbestos continues to be used in different products. And even if a ban is put in place, many industries used asbestos in the past for various purposes. It is still possible for asbestos-contaminated products to exist even with an asbestos ban in place.

Asbestos can be found in many places. This dangerous mineral can also be found in places one would not expect. Below is a look at some common and uncommon places where you could find asbestos.

After two weeks of in-person trial, a Los Angeles County jury awarded a 64-year-old woman diagnosed with mesothelioma $43 million on May 20, 2022. This verdict is among the largest seen in recent years. The woman, who was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2019, blamed Algoma Hardwoods Inc. for her condition.

According to the evidence presented, the 64-year-old California woman never directly worked with the toxic substance known as asbestos. However, her husband used to work in a capacity that exposed him to asbestos. He worked with doors that contained asbestos. The asbestos dust from the doors got stuck in his skin, hair, and clothes, and he brought this dust home. Even though the woman sometimes assisted her husband on-site, most of the asbestos exposure she suffered was from the asbestos dust her husband brought home. According to a family representative, the 64-year-old woman suffered asbestos exposure while doing her husband’s laundry. Also, just being inside the home exposed her to asbestos.

From 1977 to 1980, Algoma made fire-resistant asbestos-contaminated doors. The jury found the company 50% liable for the 64-year-old woman’s mesothelioma. The jury then assessed comparative fault against other defendants. The following is a breakdown of the percentage of responsibility each defendant was awarded;

Unfortunately, despite asbestos awareness advocates doing their best to educate people on asbestos and asbestos-related illnesses, such as mesothelioma, many people still do not understand the dangers of asbestos exposure. People are still mishandling asbestos and using asbestos-contaminated products. For example, people continue to use asbestos-contaminated cosmetic products. It is our hope that now that the dangers of using asbestos-contaminated cosmetic products have been revealed through HBO Max’s documentary, “Not So Pretty,”  things will change.

HBO Max’s Multi-part Documentary Airs Out the Link Between Mesothelioma and Cosmetic Products

The documentary “Not So Pretty” is a four-part investigative expose of the beauty industry. The documentary, produced by Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering, exposes the secrets of the cosmetics and personal care industries. Unfortunately, these two industries are loosely regulated, with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration having little power to enforce changes.

The NJ appeals court recently upheld a sanction against Ford in a mesothelioma case involving second-hand asbestos exposure. When Mrs. A.C (a name used for purposes of this article) was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, her family filed a lawsuit against Ford Motor Company, her husband’s former employer. According to the family, Mrs. A.C developed mesothelioma after inhaling asbestos fibers from her husband’s clothing during the 30 years that he worked as a service manager for the motor dealerships. During the trial, Ford Motor Company withheld evidence in violation of discovery rules, which led to the court imposing a significant sanction. Ford appealed the decision and the sanction, but the NJ state appeals court refused to set the sanctions aside.

For many years, Mrs. A.C’s family had tried to obtain the training manuals for Ford so that they could prove to the court that the company had not warned its workers about the dangers of asbestos in brake dust. Unfortunately, the family was not able to obtain those materials. Instead of producing the information, a corporate representative testified that he could not locate it. He said that none of the manuals were found.

In response, Mrs. A.C’s attorney confronted the representative with a copy of the manual. After the confrontation, the representative confessed that he had seen the manual before and even answered questions about it in previous asbestos cases. After learning that the representative had withheld evidence, the court imposed the sanction that went beyond the jury’s $800,000 verdict.

Most juries spend weeks hearing evidence about how a victim developed mesothelioma and debating whether negligence played a part in the victim developing the disease. However, unlike most juries who disagree on evidence and whether negligence was involved, the Wisconsin jury in a recently decided mesothelioma case disagreed on the amount of compensation to be awarded to the victim’s family. While in the end, the jury members agreed that Pabst should pay the victim’s family more than $26 million, two of the jury members disagreed, arguing that the company should be made to pay much more.

The family of the mesothelioma victim, a grandfather who worked at Pabst Blue Ribbon’s Milwaukee Brewery, initiated the lawsuit. During his time at Pabst, the mesothelioma victim was exposed to asbestos. Pabst Blue Ribbon’s Milwaukee Brewery employed the mesothelioma victim in the 1970s. It was during those years that the dangers of asbestos and its role in mesothelioma became well known. But, despite Pabst knowing the dangers of asbestos and its role in mesothelioma, the company did not take any steps to protect its workers. Pabst even let its workers get exposed to asbestos in the lunchroom. Pabst’s lunchroom was equipped with asbestos-contaminated pipes from which asbestos fell.

Initially, the family accused Pabst Blue Ribbon’s Milwaukee Brewery and Wisconsin Electric (another of the victim’s former employers) of failing to provide its workers with a safe working environment. After the original claim was filed, Wisconsin Electric decided to settle the case outside the court. On the other hand, Pabst insisted on going to court. The company argued against its own responsibility, which angered the jury.

People have been filing mesothelioma and asbestos-related claims for more than three decades now. Over the years, asbestos companies that recklessly exposed people to asbestos have been forced to pay plaintiffs huge amounts of money. Because of the huge payouts, some companies started filing for bankruptcy. Generally, companies began filing for bankruptcy to avoid liability. Most of the companies that chose to file for bankruptcy were not able to avoid liability. This is mainly because, as part of the Chapter 11 bankruptcy, companies were required to establish trusts that would fund victims of asbestos exposure. This is where asbestos and mesothelioma trust funds originated from.

What are Asbestos and Mesothelioma Trust Funds?

Asbestos trust funds, asbestos bankruptcy trust funds, or mesothelioma trust funds are trust funds created on behalf of bankrupt asbestos companies with a possibility of having an asbestos suit filed against them. Many companies set up trust funds years ago after going bankrupt. They created the trust funds to pay out compensation to victims who had already filed their claims and any individuals who filed claims in the future. Generally, the purpose of asbestos and mesothelioma trust funds is to put aside money for current and future asbestos claims.

Across separate settlements, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) commits to accelerate and strengthen asbestos risk reevaluation under the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA). On October 13, 2021, the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), an organization dedicated to preventing asbestos exposure, said that the organization and its allies had reached settlements with EPA regarding the toxic mineral that causes mesothelioma. These settlements come after a heated legal battle over a contentious risk assessment. ADAO and its allies have been pushing for a comprehensive second risk evaluation for asbestos for some time now and are glad they struck these settlements with the EPA. According to the president and co-founder of ADAO, Linda Reinstein, a more robust and comprehensive evaluation will better document the massive harm asbestos continues to cause in America.

As per the deal, the Environmental Protection Agency will finish the second risk assessment by December 1, 2024. The second risk evaluation is expected to address the deficiencies in the first risk evaluation. In an agreement, the EPA agreed to, among other things;

  • Expand its second risk evaluation to include all six asbestos fiber types instead of only chrysotile asbestos.

According to a federal workplace report on safety inspection, three companies exposed residents and workers at a Missouri residential nursing facility to asbestos hazards during a flooring replacement project. The three companies also failed to ensure safe asbestos removal during the project. Early this year, OSHA began an inspection in the residential nursing facility based on a referral from the Missouri Department of Natural resources. More than 30 days after the flooring work began, OSHA evacuated the nursing facility’s residents.

According to OSHA, three companies, namely; SRZ OP Bentonview, SRZ Mgmt Holdings, and Eastern Coast Management Inc., failed to conduct their work professionally and safely in various ways. According to OSHA, these three companies did not check for the signs of the dangerous substance, asbestos, and neither did they build barriers to contain the site. Also, the three companies in question failed to provide PPE and respiratory equipment to workers to prevent asbestos exposure. OSHA further claims that workers from the three companies did not complete an asbestos assessment to determine the presence of asbestos even after removing approximately 10,000 square feet of floor tiles containing asbestos.

According to samples collected at three different locations in the nursing facility, there was a huge asbestos concentration in the facility. Approximately 45% to 51% of the samples contained chrysotile asbestos. White or chrysotile asbestos is the most commonly encountered form of asbestos in the U.S.

A New Orleans, Louisiana jury recently awarded an $8.2 million mesothelioma verdict to a former mechanic against Ford. Ford Motor Company is a multinational company that designs, manufactures, markets, and services cars, trucks, utility vehicles, and luxury vehicles. After only 60 minutes of deliberation, the Louisiana jury ordered the manufacturing giant to pay the victim $8,261,874 as compensation for the malignant mesothelioma he blamed on the repeated asbestos exposure he suffered while servicing vehicles manufactured by Ford. The jury’s quick decision came after three weeks of testimony about how the former mechanic was repeatedly exposed to asbestos while servicing clutches and brakes installed on Ford vehicles and buses.

Over a year ago, the Louisiana resident was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a rare and fatal cancer. Immediately the former mechanic learned that he had mesothelioma, he filed a negligence and strict liability lawsuit against Ford Motor Company. The former mechanic worked as a gas station mechanic and as a school bus mechanic. It was while working these jobs in the 1960s and 70s that he suffered repeated asbestos exposure. While servicing asbestos-containing clutches and brakes on vehicles manufactured by Ford, the former mechanic was exposed to asbestos dust. When asbestos fibers get stuck in the lining of the lungs after being inhaled, they cause inflammation and scarring to DNA and mesothelial cells. Mesothelioma then develops due to the inflammation, typically decades after initial asbestos exposure.

Ford Motor Company’s failure to warn of the presence of asbestos or related dangers was at the heart of this mesothelioma litigation. The plaintiff’s attorneys and the jury determined that Ford knew about the dangers of asbestos long before the former mechanic’s exposure. They also determined that the manufacturing giant failed to warn the former mechanic about the dangers of asbestos. Due to that, the jury awarded the plaintiff $8.2. million in compensatory damages.

According to a July 8, 2021 opinion, Washington Supreme Court reinstated an $81.5 million ruling in full after overturning an appellate court ruling for a wrongful death claim of an auto mechanic. According to the Supreme Court ruling, the Court of Appeals “overstepped the limited role played by appellate courts in the civil justice system and substituted its own subjective judgment for that of the jury and trial courts based on nothing more than the size of the verdict.”

The original claim was brought forward by the family and estate of the deceased mechanic who died in 2015 at the age of 67 of peritoneal mesothelioma. In 2017, after an approximately 12-week trial, a jury unanimously found NAPA Auto Parts and Genuine Parts Corp (GPC) liable in the mechanic’s death and awarded the deceased mechanic’s survivors $81.5 million. In its verdict, the jury found that NAPA and GPC were strictly liable and negligent for their defective asbestos-containing products used by the mechanic. Before his diagnosis and death, the deceased had worked with brake pads containing asbestos, and other parts manufactured by GPC and sold through NAPA for decades.

After the jury awarded the $81.5 million to the deceased’s mechanic’s survivors, GPC and NAPA moved for a new trial or alternatively to have the damages awarded lowered, which the trial court denied. The Court of Appeals then vacated the jury’s $81.5 million verdict and reversed the trial court in part. The Court of Appeals concluded that the trial court made a mistake when it excluded one of NAPA and GPC’s expert witnesses and applied what was referred to as “subjective determination.” The Court of Appeals also concluded that the jury’s award was excessive and ordered a new trial on damages.

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