Monthly Archives: December 2006
A West Palm Beach, Fla., woman is celebrating a $1.1 million victory against an asbestos manufacturer, but the happiness is bittersweet, as she must celebrate it alone. Her husband, who would have benefitted most from the lawsuit, died before it came to fruition.
Dennis Kavanaugh worked as a carpenter for more than 30 years, often coming home covered in a snow-like dust — breathing it in, spitting it out — that would kill him slowly, bit by bit for the rest of his life, says an article in the Palm Beach Post.
British reinsurer Equitas has agreed to pay $118 million to EnPro Industries Inc. — a manufacturing company based in Charlotte, N.C. — in a dispute over insurance coverage for asbestos-related claims against EnPro, says the Charlotte Business Journal.
About $30 million of the settlement will reimburse EnPro for payments it has already made on asbestos-related claims, and the rest will go into a trust for resolving other asbestos claims.
Several EnPro subsidiaries such as Garlock Sealing Technologies and The Anchor Packing Co. manufactured products containing asbestos, and EnPro has been involved in many lawsuits concerning death and injury as a result.
Lloyd’s of London underwriters hold about $130 million of EnPro’s insurance for such claims, and Equitas reinsures the company. The settlement resolves all of EnPro’s claims against Lloyd’s underwriters.
"Resolution of the dispute brings our insurance reimbursements from Equitas up to date, while establishment of the trust ensures we will continue to receive cash payments of the Equitas portion of our remaining insurance in a timely and efficient manner," says Ernie Schaub, an EnPro chief executive.
The number of deaths from exposure to asbestos has skyrocketed since the late ‘60s and is projected to keep climbing through the next decade due to long-ago exposure to the substances that was widely used for insulation and fireproofing, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The government-funded group determined that in 1968, 77 people died from asbestos, compared with the 1,500 people who died from it in 2000 — almost a 2,000 percent increase.
The Sun Newspaper in the UK reports a woman died from inhaling deadly asbestos dust after years of washing her husband’s work clothes. An inquest as to the cause of death heard she shook out her carpenter Dennis’s overalls before washing — freeing particles of the deadly material asbestos. The local coroner recorded a verdict of death from an industrial disease.
She contracted the asbestos-related disease mesothelioma last June and died last month. Her husband is also ill and receiving medical treatment.
In an attempt to end a legislative standoff, Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle recently proposed a $141 billion trust fund to compensate victims of asbestos exposure, says Bloomberg.
The proposal includes $42 billion to be paid during the first five years by companies facing asbestos lawsuits and their insurers, and $4 billion from assets of bankruptcy trusts.
“On the key issue of funding, we remain concerned that while it’s a step forward, it is still short of the mark based on the last discussions on projections of future claims,” says Peg Seminario, director of occupational safety for the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Operations.
In April, Democrats blocked a $124 billion Republican plan to fund litigation that has bankrupted more than 70 companies, saying asbestos makers and their insurers should have to contribute at least $30 billion more for workers exposed to asbestos.
Seminario says that while Daschle’s proposal addresses many unresolved issues, she wonders if a deal is possible given “how far apart the parties remain.’
Travelers Property Casualty Corp.’s proposal to pay $500 million to victims of asbestos-related diseases is on its way to becoming a reality after a judge said the settlement amount is acceptable, says Bloomberg News.
If all goes as planned, the the pact would be one of the largest settlements in asbestos-legislation history, the article says. Travelers insured the Johns-Manville Corp. (which no longer exists) for more than 30 years while it produced and sold asbestos.
The Financial Times estimates 700,000 businesses across the United Kingdom may not meet new regulations designed to combat workplace asbestos.
An independent survey conducted by Lighthouse Global suggests more than half of businesses have not carried out asbestos assessments and more than a third have not even heard of the new regulations.
The new regulations, which will take effect May 21, require every business to carry out an asbestos assessment on their properties. If asbestos is found, corrective legal action will be taken. The legislation was introduced in October of 2002 to protect employees from the largest single cause of work-related deaths in the UK.
Workers in the following industries and occupations are at higher risk of asbestos exposure and resulting illnesses:
- Aerospace and missile production
- Aircraft manufacturing and maintenance
- Asbestos & insulation manufacturing
- Automobile manufacturing, maintenance and repair – especially brake related
- Cement plant workers
- Building engineers
- Building material manufacturing
- Construction & demolition industry:
- Cement worker
- Engineers & inspectors
- Iron & steel
- Masonry, tile & linoleum layers
- Maritime & shipyard workers:
- Merchant marines
- U.S. Navy and Coast Guard personnel
- Packing and gasket manufacturers
- Protective clothing and glove manufacturers
- Railroad workers
- Refractory plants
- Rubber industry
- Sheet metal
- Warehouse indsutry
In addition, family members of employees in these industries are highly susceptible to asbestos exposure by asbestos being carried on clothing and other items.
Asbestos fibers do not evaporate into air or dissolve in water. However, pieces of fibers can enter the air and water from the weathering of natural deposits and the wearing down of manufactured asbestos products. Small diameter fibers and fiber-containing particles may remain suspended in the air for a long time and be carried long distances by wind or water currents before settling. Larger diameter fibers and particles tend to settle more quickly.
The events of Sept. 11 left Americans with, above all, questions. The recent 9/11 Commission tried to answer some of them, but rescue workers and New Yorkers worry their health is still in danger. A recently proposed bill could insure them to seek better health treatment.
Soon after Sept. 11, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was quick to assure New Yorkers the air they were breathing — even with the still-prevalant poisonous gas and dust — was safe. An internal investigation later found that the White House Council on Environmental Quality “convinced EPA to add reassuring statements and delete cautionary ones,” says an article published by Inter Press News Services.
During a short time after the Trade Center attacks, the EPA helped clean and test about 4,000 apartments in the area, but tens of thousands of other sites have yet to be officially checked for toxins such as asbestos, mercury and lead.
According to Mount Sinai’s occupational health clinic’s most recent figures, about half of the 9,000 rescue and recovery workers still suffer from respiratory problems.
In March, a group of recovery workers and downtown residents sued the EPA to demand further testing and cleanup, as well as the creation of a fund to pay for medical monitoring of affected people.
A woman who lived one and a half blocks from Ground Zero says she had her home tested and found relatively high levels of fiberglass, asbestos and other toxins. She claims that on the day of the attacks, “thick gray dust mixed with burnt papers pervaded the apartment though open windows.” As a result, she contracted a rash on her face and had severe headaches, sinus problems and a deep cough, she says.
Recently, two Congress members proposed expanding federal health insurance to downtown residents and workers to cover their physical and psychological treatment and the cost of prescription medications. And the bill would increase the number of people being monitored from 12,000 to 40,000.