Monthly Archives: October 2006
A federal locomotive safety law prohibits asbestos victims from making asbestos injury claims against train manufacturers in state courts, ruled the Ohio Supreme Court 5-2 recently.
The decision upholds a lower court ruling that barred about 2,000 former railway workers from adding manufacturers to their separate lawsuits against nearly 60 companies that made, sold or used asbestos, according to the Associated Press. The workers say they were exposed to the substance while working in or maintaining rail cars.
The decision wasn’t a comment on the validity of the workers’ claims, but the justices said, “claims against locomotive manufacturers are wholly futile.” In making the decision, the justices cited the Federal Locomotive Boiler Inspection Act, saying it pre-empts state-law tort claims against railroad manufacturers.
They also said trial courts have great discretion in deciding whether to add new defendants to an existing lawsuit. A plaintiff challenging the use of that discretion must show the decision was “unreasonable, arbitrary or unconscionable.”
Disagreeing, one justice said the claims were not in danger of intruding into federal domain because they dealt with products no longer used, not current railroad equipment.
More than 40,000 cases are pending by Ohioans exposed to asbestos.
The Dallas Fort Worth Star-Telegram presented a heart moving story of another asbestos victim in Sunday’s May 2 paper. The paper further reports school maintenance workers may be at increased risk for developing diseases related to prolonged exposure to asbestos.
Reading the story, your heart has to go out to this custodian worker:
As Randall Blevins was recovering from surgery, doctors told his wife that the patches indicated exposure to significant amounts of asbestos. Presumably, they said, the right lung was the same.
That was May 2002, 25 years after Blevins began working as a heating and air-conditioning technician for the Fort Worth school district. He fixed boilers and repaired pipes — products often encased in asbestos.
Blevins, 50, believes that his lung disease stemmed from his work for the district because he knows of no other contact with asbestos dust.
From 1977, when he was hired, until about 1982, when the district stepped up its precautions, he handled asbestos without thinking. Blevins said he and the district’s other boiler-room workers hit it with their wrenches and ripped it off pipes with their bare hands while crawling under buildings. Each time, the white shards cascaded into their hair, eyes, noses and mouths.
“We would handle asbestos like it was nothing,” said Blevins, who lives in Southlake. “Might have on only paper masks.”
Blevins said he appears to be the only one in his maintenance team who has been diagnosed with asbestos-related symptoms. But asbestos illnesses typically don’t show up until decades later, and Blevins’ illness gives some of his co-workers pause.
“I look at him and think, ‘That could be me,’ ” said Arthur Cox, the district’s heating and air-conditioning foreman.
Amid recent Wall Street rumors that a national fund to pay asbestos victims’ claims, lawmakers said no agreement has been reached. The fund would be financed by asbestos litigation defendants and insurers with the idea that set amounts would be paid to victims of asbestos-related diseases, while ending their right to sue.
In an article published by Reuters, Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle said, "Contrary to market rumors, there has been no deal reached on the issue of asbestos."
But lawmakers are still discussing the issue and are hopeful that a bipartisan solution can be reached, he said in a statement.
In attempts to ward off a potential asbestos-like crisis, Ohio Gov. Bob Taft signed into law a bill making it more difficult for those exposed to silica to sue before they become ill, according to an article published in The Toledo Blade.
The law, which likely will take effect in early September, makes Ohio the first state to establish a medical threshold plaintiffs must meet to sustain a suit against firms that mine sand and quartz or make the safety equipment for sand blasters, glass makers and other workers.
A Texas judge has rejected requests by companies being sued for asbestos poisoning to create a separate docket dealing only with cases in which plaintiffs are sick. The companies wanted to delay all other cases until the victim developed asbestos-related sicknesses. Lawyers for the plaintiffs said the delays would deny their clients constitutional access to the courts and a trial by jury.
This was reported by the Star-Telgram quoting a portion of Judge Davidson’s findings: “At some point in the future, the number of cases filed which could qualify for assignment to an unimpaired docket could result in a denial of right to court access to other cases in which impairment is agreed to exist. It cannot be said that this is the case at this time for cases filed since Sept. 1, 2003.”
It was also reported more than 600,000 asbestos-related lawsuits have been filed nationwide, many by people who have not developed symptoms of asbestos-related illness. About a third of those were filed in Texas.
According to an article published by the London Times, reinsurance company Equitas warned that U.S. Senator Owen Hatch’s attempt to cap the soaring cost of asbestos-related compensation claims is expected to fail. The company, which was set up by Lloyd’s of London in 1996, also said it has raised its reserves against such claims by 296 million pounds. In total, Equitas has 4 billion pounds against asbestos-related claims as legal cases mount in the United States, according to the article.
Mesothelioma — a type of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos — is fairly new and difficult to diagnose and treat. Current treatments are surgical removal of affected tissue, chemotherapy and radiation, depending on the stage of the disease.
But a new type of treatment has been introduced to the mix. Photodynamic therapy uses light to kill cancerous cells after a drug is administered intravenously to target and render the cells more sensitive, says a press release put out by PRWeb.
The drug has no affect on normal cells, so no additional harm will be done. After cells have been properly exposed, a special frequency of light laser beams are directed toward the mesothelioma. Although there have been cases of eye irritability and nausea, side effects have been minimal.
For more information, visit the Mesothelioma Help Web site.
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer recently published an opinion column by Edwin Rasmussen, a former state commander of the Washington Department of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, about U.S. veterans exposed to asbestos during their service from World War II through the Vietnam War. In that era, all of the military services used asbestos widely as insulation. As a result, Rasmussen says, thousands of veterans already have been lost to asbestos-related diseases and more will follow.
Time is already short for these victims, so Rasmussen says it is “regrettable that the U.S. Senate recently let partisan wrangling sideline important legislation that would provide compensation to veterans and other victims of asbestos-related illnesses.”
An Illinois circuit judge facing scrutiny from pro-business and pro-industry groups handed over his docket, asking that his county’s asbestos lawsuits be handled by another judge, according to a recent article in the Belleville News-Democrat.
Nicholas Byron ruled the Madison County Circuit Court that handles the country’s largest asbestos docket for about 10 years. In 2003 alone, he presided over 953 such cases. As a result, Madison County is notorious for its plaintiff-friendly reputation.