Asbestos FAQ’s

EPA Slaps a Fine on DOE Contractor

The Department of Energy, which oversees the Hanford Nuclear cleanup in Eastern Washington, got slapped with a $115,000 fine for violations in its asbestos disposal. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced earlier this week that its inspectors at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation found improperly managed asbestos in 19 of 22 samples taken at demolition sites.

Based on samples taken at six demolition areas, the EPA said waste containing asbestos was improperly disposed at a Hanford waste facility and there may be as many as 35 more sites where asbestos has, or is suspected to have been, released to the soil.

According to an NPR report by Anna King

EPA fines DOE for improper asbestos removal.

EPA fines DOE for improper asbestos removal.

the alleged violations occurred during building demolitions in 2009 and 2010 when federal stimulus money sped up deconstruction projects.

Dennis Faulk, a manager with the EPA, says the federal contractor failed to document and label truck shipments of asbestos debris.

The Hanford cleanup which includes the demolition of hundreds of buildings at the site, which processed materials for construction of nuclear weapons for World War II and the Cold War.

Why Should Anyone Seek Justice as an Asbestos Victim?

The Wall Street Journal recently featured a fascinating story about an asbestos victim.  Bill McQueen, unlike other mesothelioma patients that we often hear about, was not a shipbuilder or construction worker. He was an Air !Bill McQUEENForce surgeon. Dr. McQueen had sought medical care, when his chest pain persisted. He had thought it was perhaps a flareup of an old rib fracture. However, is doctor ultimately told him that he was suffering from mesothelioma, an incurable and fatal cancer that was encasing his left lung.

Dr. McQueen represents a different type of plaintiff in the asbestos litigation.  Rather than targeting one or two defendants, asbestos claims are now involving dozens of corporate defendants. Research based on asbestos filing in Philadelphia reveals that almost 50% of the mesothelioma claims from 2006 through 2010 related plaintiffs’ exposure due to do-it-yourself type of construction or auto mechanic projects. In contrast, those type of plaintiffs were only about 3% of similar claims in the prior decade (1991- 2001).

The mesothelioma was so far advanced for Dr. McQueen, when his wife began to search for an asbestos-injury attorney. In 2011, waking up from a coma, Dr. McQueen found an attorney at his bedside. The process of understanding how Dr. McQueen was exposed to asbestos began with digging through photos of an old family farm. Some of those photos showed rusty paint cans, cement bags, and insulation, all of which Dr. McQueen had worked with decades before. As a result, Dr. McQueen and his wife named over two dozen corporate defendants.

What is also interesting to see from this WSJ article is the comments. Some found the McQueens’ search for justice “disgusting,” while others viewed the claim as a sort of fishing expedition. A scant few seemed to recognize that this was the family’s attempt to hold negligent companies accountable.

Dr. McQueen passed away in his home this past March. Trial is set for this November, while several defendants have settled with the family already.

L.A. Court Returns $26.6 Million Verdict to Former Drywaller

Last month, a Los Angeles Superior Court jury returned its verdict awarding $26.6 million to Michael Sutherland, a former drywaller, diagnosed with mesothelioma, a cancer caused by asbestos. and his wife Suszi.

As a drywaller in northern San Diego County from 1967, Mike was still attending Madison High School. Then, through 1993, he often took extended surfing trips to Hawaii and Mexico. As a contractor, he made a living for numerous residential and commercial jobs during the construction “boom” in the 1970s.  During this period, cancer-causing asbestos was a common ingredient in popular construction products. Such products include joint compound, fire-rated drywall, caulk, stucco, roofing mastic and asbestos cement pipe.

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“With all the trades working on top of each other trying to finish one job and move on to the next, it was always dusty,” Mike recalled, “It wasn’t until I became a lead maintenance mechanic at UC San Diego and attended a class on job safety in 2003 that I learned that so many of the materials used on the jobs back then contained asbestos.”
The Sutherlands’ case (LASC case # BC486980) was filed on June 20, 2012. Over 30 defendants were named in the case. They had settled most of the defendants before trial. However, Stucco manufacturer, Highland Stucco and Lime Products, Inc., refused to settle. Thus, Highland was the only defendant at trial, claiming that other companies and even Mr. Sutherland himself were responsible for his exposure to asbestos. Disagreeing with Highland, the jury ultimately found the company responsible for its role in subjecting Mr. Sutherland and other members of the public to its dangerous products.

Why Are Asbestos Cases so Complex?

As most followers of this blog already probably realize, asbestos lawsuits are complex in a number of ways. They typically involve a number of defendants, each of whom may be brought into a case on different theories of

Asbestos cases are notoriously lengthy and complicated

Asbestos cases are notoriously lengthy and complicated

liability as discovery progresses. Then, discovery process grows expensive, especially as expert witnesses are almost always required.

A typical claimant is often exposed to multiple asbestos products. Thus, often it’s difficult to demonstrate the nexus between a defendant and the source of exposure. Taken together, these characteristics of the claims suggest that asbestos lawsuits are unusually difficult to resolve.

Attorneys who specialize in asbestos injury practices have, over time, obtained the requisite knowledge and experience to succeed with such cases. They have learned to develop specific plans that include the usual hurdles in this increasingly specialized area of litigation. In an asbestos injury case, a plaintiff may name anywhere from a handful to a hundreds of entities as defendants. Suing dozens of defendants can predictably result in a large number of cross claims and somewhat redundant pleadings from various parties at the discovery process. An attorney involved in an asbestos claim will usually have to sort through a maze of parties to determine who may be without liability. Such cases are not only time consuming for plaintiffs and defense counsel, but also for the court.

New Blood Test May Help ID Mesothelioma

Patients who believe that they may have mesothelioma may now have a new way of confirming their hunch via a blood test.  US News & World Reports article earlier this month reported on the blood test, along with a lung fluid test. The lung fluid test looks for a protein in plasma called fibulin-3 that indicates whether a person has mesothelioma, often triggered by asbestos exposure.

The article quotes study author, Dr. Harvey Pass, a professor of thoracic oncology at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City: “In the mesothelioma patients, fibulin-3 was four to five times higher than in asbestos-exposed individuals,”

Results of the study appear in the Oct. 11 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

This cancer originates in the lining of the heart, abdomen, chest, and lungs. Mesothelioma is a disease prevalent among individuals who have worked with asbestos or in locations where exposure to asbestos was likely. Smoking increases the risk of mesothelioma.

The deadly material has been used in manufacturing heat resistant materials, often used for construction/plumbing projects. Asbestos has also been used in automotive/truck parts–most notably the brake components, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Dr. Pass recognized that mesothelioma could take years, if not decades, to developer after asbestos exposure. Often, once diagnosed, mesothelioma patients would face grave prognoses of 1 year or less for survival. Symptoms are coughing, chest pain, and shortness of breath.

An earlier detection by use of a “biomarker” may allow for more effective treatment of mesothelioma.

Exposure in Washington – Foss Launch and Tug Company

Foss Launch and Tug Company began in 1889.  As the years went on, the company grew.  The company, among other work, repaired and refurbished vessels.  During much of this work, in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, workers were exposed to asbestos containing materials.  Asbestos containing materials on boats included insulation, boilers, pipe fittings and gaskets.  Unfortunately, exposure to asbestos containing materials can lead to mesothelioma and other asbestos related cancers.

Exposure in Washington – Texaco Oil Refinery

The Texaco Oil Refinery opened in Anacortes, Washington in 1958.  During this time period asbestos containing products were being widely used.  Not surprisingly, at the refinery, asbestos containing products such as protective clothing, insulation and gaskets were used at this refinery, as well as, many other refineries across the country.  Many workers at the plant were exposed to asbestos containing products.  Now, many years after exposure, workers are experiencing the effects of the exposure in such diseases as mesothelioma and other asbestos caused cancers.  The long latency period for the development of these diseases is a characteristic of exposure to asbestos.  In addition to holding the manufacturers of asbestos containing products accountable, the refinery owners, can also, be held responsible for their knowledge of the dangers of asbestos.

Causes of Asbestos-Related Diseases

445.jpegMany folks ask what causes Asbestos-related diseases.  Mesothelioma, one of the most serious asbestos-related diseases, and other related cancers are caused by repeated inhalation of asbestos fibers.  The fibers are not visible and testing to determine whether or not the deadly microscopic fibers are in the air requires special equipment.   Asbestos was used in insulation, roofing, floor tile, siding brake linings and other fire retardant materials.  Worker using asbestos containing materials or around those using asbestos containing materials had no knowledge of its dangers.  These workers got up each and every day to provide for their families, all the while, exposing themselves to deadly microscopic fibers.  Those that have suffered or are suffering from Asbestos-related diseases are entitled to accountability from those who knowingly caused their exposure.

What happens to asbestos when it enters the environment?

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.
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How can asbestos enter and leave my body?

If you breathe asbestos fibers into your lungs, some of the fibers will be deposited in the air passages and on the cells that make up your lungs. Most fibers are removed from your lungs by being carried away or coughed up in a layer of mucus to the throat, where they are swallowed into the stomach. This usually takes place within a few hours. Fibers that are deposited in the deepest parts of the lung are removed more slowly. In fact, some fibers may move through your lungs and can remain in place for many years and may never be removed from your body. Amphibole asbestos fibers are retained in the lung longer than chrysotile asbestos fibers.
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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.