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Widow of SeaTac Worker Awarded $475K for Asbestos Related Injury & Death

Donald Potts worked at SeaTac Airport for a major construction project between 1970 and 1972. During that time, his wife Lorena claims, he inhaled airborne asbestos particles. In November 2012, his doctor diagnosed him with mesothelioma, an asbestos related cancer.  At 71 years old, he passed away on January 13, 2011. Later that year, his wife and the Estate of Donald Potts commenced trial against the Port of Seattle.

However a few weeks ago, the Port of Seattle Board of Commissioners decided that they would save the Port money by settling with the plaintiffs for $475,000.

In the past several decades, at minimum two other cases involve the Port for penalties related to hazardous asbestos exposure at SeaTac.

What is interesting and important to note about the Potts case is that the alleged exposure dates back to the early 1970’s with a relatively recent diagnosis and death of the mesothelioma patient. This suggests that other victims of asbestos exposure have issues ripe for litigation.

Mesothelioma Victim Awarded $2.1 Million Verdict Against, Defeats Parts Manufacturer

When James Lovelace was 10 years old, he loved to help his father, a big-rig truck driver, service his trucks. This included handling brake components that contained asbestos. Now 66 years old, Mr. Lovelace is a victim of the malignant cancer, mesothelioma.

The brake parts manufacturer, Pneumo Abex, said to the jury, that Lovelace was exposed to asbestos in a lot of other ways besides working with Abex brake parts. In other words, Defendant Abex’s claimed that it wasn’t the manufacturer’s fault that Lovelace suffered from mesothelioma. Rather, it pointed to the general exposure to the deadly material in his house. Through his childhood, Lovelace breathed and touched items that carried asbestos dust from his father’s workplace as a forklift operator at Johns Manville asbestos cement pipe plant in Stockton, CA.

After a three week trial, the jury did not buy much of Abex’s arguments. It turned around and awarded Mr. Lovelace $1 million for future noneconomic damages, $500,000 for past noneconomic damages; $430,000 for future economic damages; and $144,000 for past economic damages.

The SKWC asbestos injury attorneys congratulate Mr. Lovelace and his team of trial lawyers for this important victory.

Asbestos Epoch at the Capitol Ends $173 Million Later

This week, the Huffington Post reports on the official conclusion of an epoch battle related to asbestos found in the Capitol Hill underground system. Employees who had been exposed to asbsestos for years

The Office of Compliance (OOC) closed out the administrative complaint it filed six years ago. The complaint included claims against the Architect of the Capitol (AOC) for its failure to eliminate safety and health hazards found in 2000. Excessive asbestos and heat as well as falling concrete were cited as hazards that had been discovered over a decade ago in the underground tunnel that provides steam and chilled water to Capitol Hill.

After well over $100 million, the OOC is content in AOC’s fulfillment of its obligations.

However, workers who continue to suffer from the years of exposure to asbestos do not find much to be happy about with the conclusion of OOC’s complaint. They point out that it took about six years from the time when the hazards were revealed before the OOC did anything.

The OOC’s general counsel, Eveleth, said, “Filing the complaint sent a message that we will not put people’s lives at risk in circumstances when employing offices offer no viable solution for abating a very serious hazard.”

Waiting To Exhale at a Brooklyn School

A public school’s plans for asbestos abatement have the parents at Cobble Hill Elementary, a public school in Brooklyn ready to occupy the school until their claims are met. Parents were upset, when the school provided little notice about the plans to remove asbestos from the school structure.

Rather than conduct the abatement while the school children are on spring or summer break, the plan is to remove the asbestos after hours each school day. The concern is that the dust produced from the abatement project will needlessly expose the children to harmful fibers known to cause cancer and other serious illnesses.

This Friday, if the school does not change its plan, parents vow to sit in and occupy the school in protest and to prevent the start of this controversial project mid-school year.

State Supreme Court Halves Jury Verdict in Asbestos Case

Last year, a jury found in favor of a U.S. Navy sailor’s family awarding the family almost $6 million. However, a few weeks ago the Virginia State Supreme Court cut the jury’s verdict in half to $2.83 million. It held that the jury should not have been allowed to award pain and suffering damages.

Robert Hardick was a former Navy petty officer and had been a shipfitter and machine repairperson for Navy ships. Due to working conditions on Navy ships that included breathing asbestos fibers for a couple decades, Mr. Hardick died after suffering from mesothelioma at 69 years old.

The VA Supreme Court cited the U.S. Supreme Court, where it stated that a “seaman” is a broadly used maritime term. One only needed to “contribute to the function of the vessel or to the accomplishment of its mission.” Thus, the VA Supreme Court held that the trial court erred by allowing the jury to award Hardick’s family nonpecuniary damages for the wrongful death of Mr. Hardick.

Defendant John Crane Inc. expressed approval of this decision to vacate the pain and suffering and loss of society awards.

SCOTUS Pulls Plug on Plaintiffs’ Right to Asbestos Injury Claims Against Railroads

The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected a legal theory that would have given asbestos injury attorneys a new industry to attack with lawsuits.

SCOTUS ruled this past Wednesday in favor of companies involved with the design and manufacture of locomotives and their parts. The estate of the late George Corson, a welder and machinist for a railroad carrier, had sued Railroad Friction Products Corp. and Viad Corp. in Philadelphia, alleging injury from exposure to asbestos in trains and train parts distributed by the companies.

The estate’s design-defect and failure-to-warn claims were preempted by the federal Locomotive Inspection Act, the court held in a 6-3 decision authored by Justice Clarence Thomas. The decision was in line with one made by the court 85 years ago in Napier v. Atlantic Coast Line.

“(P)etitioners contend that the LIA’s preemptive scope does not extend to state common-law claims, as opposed to state legislation or regulation,” Thomas wrote.

“Napier, however, held that the LIA ‘occup(ied) the entire field of regulating locomotive equipment’ to the exclusion of state regulation. That categorical conclusion admits of no exception for state common-law duties and standards of care.”

The decision affirmed a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. It had been removed from a state court to Philadelphia federal court. 

Dissenting were justices Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer. Sotomayor’s dissenting opinion said that the plaintiffs’ claim for failure to warn was not preempted, though it agreed the defective design claim was.

The federal government and the American Association for Justice were among the groups supporting the plaintiffs’ lawsuit.

“Because the right to a legal remedy for wrongful injury is a fundamental right under the Constitution, courts may not preempt such a cause of action and leave injured persons without remedy unless Congress specifically intended that result,” the AAJ’s amicus brief said.

“The mere silence of Congress in a statute not directed at railroads rather than manufacturers falls short.”

Complaints against 50 other companies were dismissed. 

No Knowledge About Mesothelioma Until It’s Too Late

Asbestos related illnesses such as mesothelioma are particularly insidious because people often do not realize that they have the disease until decades after their exposure to asbestos. The severity of illness depends on how long the person was exposed and the amount inhaled.

Last week, the estate of a former New Mexico railroad employee sued BNSF Railway alleging wrongful death, due to asbestos exposure, of locomotive repair shop worker Santiago Riley. During 13 years of employment from 1942-1955 at railroad facilities in New Mexico and Arizona, Riley made locomotive repairs, performed various shop duties and swept floors around dusty asbestos-containing substances without any respiratory protection.

This exposure caused permanent injury and contributed to his eventual death, according to the lawsuit filed by his children. The estate seeks damages for mental and physical suffering, lost wages, medical bills and other financial losses.

An important takeaway of Santiago Riley’s story is that he and his family did not learn about his mesothelioma for years after this employment at BNSF.

Mesothelioma patients generally do not demonstrate symptoms of this disease until 20 to 50 years after their initial exposure to asbestos. Fibers that embed in the tissue surrounding the body’s internal organs, the mesothelium, usually must be present for many decades before the development of cancer. These fibers gradually accumulate and cause scarring, which leads to inflammation and cancer. Although these fibers are most often introduced into the body through inhalation, the material can also be introduced through ingestion as well. Initially, symptoms may be mild and an individual might not find them cause for alarm. However, as the cancer spreads, these symptoms become more severe and debilitating.

Hanford Workers Get Additional Protection from Asbestos

In today’s Tri-City Herald, an article reported that the Department of Energy (DOE) is taking additional measures to protect Hanford workers from asbestos. It is heartening to see that the DOE responded to the many workers’ questions and concerns about their safety in Central Hanford.

This past Thursday, union officials and top Hanford officials communicated to all Hanford staff, explaining the steps that they have taken and will take to protect workers from additional asbestos exposure. Hanford employees had expressed worries over materials that containued asbestos but were not yet demolished during the environmental cleanup.

A number of the buildings at Hanford were built with asbestos laden materials pre 1976. Workers, however, voiced concerns about breathing in asbestos fibers that could cause cancer, lung diseases, and other serious illnesses that could go undetected for decades after exposure.

Local Company Fined for Improper Asbestos Removal at Youth Center

Solomon’s Porch youth center in Wenatchee, WA is to serve hundreds of high-risk teens and includes a homeless shelter. However, part of the construction that was under way last year apparently included asbestos removal that violated guidelines. The contractor, Evergreen Asbestos, was fined $25,450 for 14 violations.

The L&I spokesperson, Hector Castro, indicated that this particular contractor should have known better. The agency’s concern focused on the workers’ safety, although Castro was not sure if nonworkers might have been exposed to dangerous material soon after the asbestos removal project.

The company owner of Evergreen Asbsestos maintains that there was no risk to the workers. However, violations cited include that the contractor failed to ensure that “all surfaces were maintained as free of … dusts and waste containing asbestos. One employee was on his hands and knees in no protective equipment or clothing.” Additionally, employees were allowed to wear half face respirators with facial hair, beards, and goatees.

A cavalier attitude toward workers’ safety is what has led to billions of dollars of lawsuits on behalf of those, who suffer or have died from mesothelioma, a deadly disease resulting from asbestos exposure.

Air Force Veteran with Mesothelioma Campaigns For Republican

Diagnosed with mesothelioma a little more than 2 years ago, Patrick Burke at 55 had doctorstell him that he has a 10% chance to live 3 years. While he doesn’t know if he’ll survive to see the 2012 presidential election results, he won’t let the deadly disease stop him from campaigning for his candidate of choice, Rick Perry. According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Burke devoted the past week in support of Perry in Iowa.

From Texas, Burke is a former Air Force veteran. To campaign for Perry was something on Burke’s “bucket list.”

When interviewed by the Telegram, Burke explained that he thought that all citizens had a duty to get involved in the political process, “I tell everybody to put down their beer and stop watching The Simpsons.’

Sadly, about 33% of mesothelioma patients are veterans who were exposed to asbestos while in service. Then, after they left the Air Force, they frequently took jobs that further exposed them to asbestos. This extended exposure inevitably led to countless diagnoses of mesothelioma.

About Kevin
Kevin Coluccio was recently named one of the Top 10 Super Lawyers in Washington State. He has long history of successful asbestos law cases and has a stellar reputation for getting result sfor his asbestos injury cases.