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History of Asbestos

Brief history of Asbestos Litigation

Thanks to its durability as well as resilience to fire and chemicals, asbestos has been in use for over thousands of years and has long been one of the go-to materials for industries far and wide. Asbestos was particularly used in the construction industry – primarily to fireproof houses and as a ubiquitous material for roofing. For the eye of the unsuspecting public, asbestos may have all the hallmarks of a miracle material that protects their houses and other materials from easily contracting fire. In defiance of its touted benefits, however, the naturally occurring mineral has always been riddled with controversies all around the world.

Asbestos History

Asbestos History - Bellas & Wachowski

Despite the fact that problems with asbestos have been in existence as far as the history of asbestos dates back, they first became apparent when the industrial revolution was taking place from the late 1880s through to the early 1900s and the use of asbestos was at its high point. And even then, it took a rather long time to piece all the facts together. The dangers of asbestos were really finally recognized in the 1920s. Because asbestos has a latency period of up to 50 years, people who worked with or around asbestos in the past unexpectedly began to get sick with diseases like mesothelioma, asbestosis and pleural plaques. The first documented death caused by exposure to asbestos was reported in 1906 and it slowly became apparent that there was an unnaturally high rate of lung problems and untimely deaths in towns where asbestos was mined. As one would expect, this reintroduced many questions regarding the safety of asbestos and shortly after, people began to take the companies responsible to courts.

Almost a century later, asbestos still continues to be a danger today, and without a signed and sealed ban in place, more people are at risk of exposure. The U.S. government’s OSHA has recognized the health risks of exposure to asbestos, but has not banned the use of asbestos and instead adopted standards for its use. On the other hand, people who have been affected with asbestos-related diseases can now turn to litigation to recover lost wages and get the expenses of their treatment entirely covered – as well as hold the company responsible.

The beginning of asbestos litigation

The first known claim against an asbestos company came in 1924 when a 33 year old woman named Nellie Kershaw from Rochdale, England died from the world's first diagnosis of asbestosis in the UK. When she was 26 years old, Nellie started working in an asbestos plant for the world's largest asbestos corporation named Turner & Newall (T&N), where she spun asbestos fibers into yarn. Quite unsurprisingly, her frequent exposure to asbestos quickly led to her experiencing health problems only a few years later. Her state of health started getting worse and also affected her financial wellbeing as she was too sick to carry on with her job. She then decided to file a lawsuit against T&N, but they disclaimed any liability. Unfortunately, Nellie passed away a year later, without ever receiving any compensation. Nellie’s case later served as the principal constituent for UK to impose new regulations regarding the use of asbestos in 1931.

The United States looked on at its first asbestos claim in 1929 when Anna Pirskowski filed a lawsuit against her employer Johns Manville Corporation in the Newark Federal Court. Even though Anna’s claim was discarded in 1934, it served as the initiation of many similar asbestos-related claims against Johns Manville and many other manufacturers of products containing asbestos thru today.

Asbestos Mass Torts becomes popular

From the 1930s through the 1970s, more and more people in the U.S. started becoming acquainted with the health risks of asbestos. Even major national publications started reporting on the link between asbestos and mesothelioma (a rare and dangerous form of cancer). It was also when more suits were being filed and asbestos companies, in the fullness of time, started to face more liability. With this in mind, in 1966, Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) was amended. This amendment laid down a number of requirements for class action lawsuits and essentially permitted large numbers of lawsuits from large groups of people affected by unsafe business practices.

For some companies like Johns Manville Corporation (the same company Anna Pirskowski sued back in 1929), the considerable number of settlements led to an abrupt end. Needless to say, Johns Manville Corporation filed for bankruptcy in 1982. At the same time, as part of the legal proceedings, it had to establish an asbestos trust fund in 1988 to include arrangements for future litigants. This trust fund is still an important aspect of litigation today and has already settled up with claims in hundreds of millions of dollars. Like Johns Manville Corporation, other asbestos companies who were faced with a barrage of lawsuits around the same time also went bankrupt and some even went completely out of business.

The current state of asbestos litigation

Based on the increasing use of asbestos in the past, analysts estimate that the cases of diseases caused by asbestos are more than likely to peak in 2020. Even though government agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have various regulations in place to keep the cases of such irreversible and life-threatening illnesses down, they are not expected to die out entirely – not any time in the near future at least, especially when asbestos remains unbanned and legal in the U.S.

The problem grows. Workers exposed to asbestos in the workplace bring the dust home and families of workers exposed to asbestos have been found to be at risk and have been diagnosed with cancer. Asbestos fibers are released into the air at the workplace. The asbestos fibers are inhaled by the family and have resulted in chronic lung disease as well as lung and other cancers. Symptoms and/or cancer may take many years to develop following exposure.

Things being what they are, asbestos victims and their families now have legal options to hold asbestos companies liable for their wrongdoings and receive compensation to cover their medical treatment, lost wages, and for their pain and suffering caused by such a diagnosis.

Conclusion

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with Mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis or other cancer-related issues resulting from exposure to asbestos, you may be eligible for a hefty lawsuit. Hiring a professional attorney will definitely be worthwhile in that case as an experienced attorney will understand the intricacies of the law and will be better prepared to take your claim to trial, ensuring you get what you are owed.

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