Every year, approximately 3,000 individuals in the United States are diagnosed with
.The main risk factor associated with mesothelioma is exposure to the
substanceasbestos; in fact, almost all mesothelioma cases have been linked to asbestos in the workplace. The main effect of the relationship between mesothelioma and asbestos has been the filing of thousands of lawsuits against companies that produced products with asbestos or that required employees to work with asbestos. To date, over
have been filed against dozens of companies.
What Is Mesothelioma?
Malignant mesothelioma, often simply called mesothelioma, is a type of cancer that starts in
cells that form the mesothelium, or the lining of organs. Mesothelioma is deadly; only
5 to 10 percent
of those with the disease live five years past the date of their diagnosis.
Landmark Mesothelioma Court Cases
Described below are some of the most prominent mesothelioma lawsuits, all of which were discussed in the
U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary’s hearing on asbestos litigation.
– Borel v. Fibreboard Paper Products Corporation
Clarence Borel was diagnosed with mesothelioma in the late 1960s. Suspecting that his cancer was the result of his work as an asbestos insulation installer, he sued Fibreboard as well as ten other asbestos companies. Borel was the first case of its kind. While asbestos companies were well aware of the health risks associated with their products, up to that point they had managed to quiet sick employees with secret workers’ compensation agreements. Borel opened the floodgates for asbestos-related mesothelioma lawsuits.
– Johns-Manville Products Corp v. Superior Court of Contra Costa County
In 1974, Reba Rudkin, an employee working in a Johns-Manville manufacturing plant in Pittsburg, California, sued Johns-Manville after developing mesothelioma from asbestos exposure during work. Johns-Manville’s defense team argued that all worker injury cases should be handled by the workers’ compensation system. It was revealed, however, that the company had committed conspiracy and fraud by attempting to cover up the dangers of asbestos. Johns-Manville eventually was held liable in appellate court, and many more employees pursued legal action. Johns-Manville filed for bankruptcy in 1982.
– Amchem Prods., Inc. v. Windsor
By the 1990s, the number of asbestos-related lawsuits, including those involving cases of mesothelioma, had exploded. As a result, many of the companies being sued filed for bankruptcy in order to avoid paying settlements. In an effort to find a solution to this crisis, plaintiffs began filing class action suits such as Amchem. Amchem eventually reached the U.S. Supreme Court and was struck down. The Court’s opinion in Amchem called out for a legislative response to “the elephantine mass of asbestos cases [that] defies customary judicial administration.”
– The Libby, Montana and W.R. Grace lawsuits
One out of every 1,000 residents in Libby, Montana, suffers from mesothelioma, a rate 100 times the national average. Libby was the site of a vermiculite mine owned by W.R. Grace. The vermiculite mine was contaminated with a form of asbestos, and the entire town was exposed. Numerous lawsuits against W.R. Grace followed, and in 2011, a $43 million settlement was reached.
Exposure to asbestos is virtually the only cause of mesothelioma. Over the course of thousands of lawsuits, it has been discovered that many companies working with asbestos knew of its dangers and actively attempted to hide them. The result has been thousands of lawsuits resulting in billions of dollars in settlements. Mesothelioma usually takes 30 to 40 years to develop after asbestos exposure, and so asbestos lawsuits should be expected to continue for some time.
Jacob Strauss is a freelance writer focusing on health & legal topics, such as personal injury, cancer treatment, mesothelioma treatment options, criminal defense, disease prevention and others as well. Those with a mesothelioma-based claim are encouraged to contact a firm with substantial experience in this area.
Image credit goes to oltmwil.