Products With Asbestos
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 Force 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.
At a Boeing hammer shop, white powder was flaking and falling from overhead pipes. So maintenance workers re-wrapped the overhead pipes to contain the absestos insulation. These workers wore protective clothing that the hammer shop workers called “moon suits.” But those hammer shop workers, including Gary Walston, did not wear any protective clothing or respirators. While the moon suited workers wrapped the pipes, visible dust and debris fell on Gary Walston and his colleagues. To protect their tools from accumulating dust, they covered them with plastic. When Gary asked his supervisor if he could wear protective gear too, he was told “get back to work.”
Roughly 25 years later, Gary Walston was diagnosed with mesothelioma. He sued Boeing, his employer, alleging that he contracted mesothelioma as a result of his exposure to asbestos while working at the hammer shop. The trial court denied Boeing’s motion for summary judgment, and Boeing appealed.
Despite the fact Boeing’s previous involvement in workers’ compensation claims with claimants suffering from asbestos-related injuries, Boeing denied that it had any “actual knowledge” that Mr. Walston’s injuries would be “certain” as a result of the visible asbestos in the hammer shop.
Mr. Walston claimed that he presented evidence raising a material factual dispute about whether Boeing had (1) actual knowledge that he was certain to be injured and (2) that Boeing willfully disregarded such knowledge. Mr. Walston argued that he—like the employees in Birklid, Hope, and Baker—was injured as a result of being exposed to a substance at work that his employer knew was certain to injure him.
The three panel appellate court reversed the trial court’s denial of Boeing’s MSJ. Judge Marywave Van Deren wrote that Boeing workers like Mr. Walston “were not immediately or visibly injured by the exposure to asbestos.” “Nor did they complain of injuries caused from their exposure to asbestos. Walston was not diagnosed with an asbestos related disease until 25 years after the ‘moon suit incident’ in the hammer shop.”
What this ruling shows is that asbsestos injury lawyers have a steep hill to climb to educate judges and the larger public about the extreme hazards of asbestos exposure. Simply because someone is not immediately coughing or showing visible injury does not mean that their bodies have already been exposed to dangerous amounts of asbestos. Mesothelioma and other asbestos related injuries can take decades to detect, as illustrated by Gary Walston’s case. If you are ever in a situation such as Mr. Walston, please think about the longterm consequences and do everything you can to educate your employer. Keep a written journal and records of all written correspondence. Hopefully, however, you will not need these in a claim against your employer.
The victims of Superstorm Sandy have seen enormous loss and devastation. Now, survivors need to recognize the risks of asbestos exposure.
The storm has claimed over 100 lives in the U.S.–mostly in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Over a hundred houses and housing units were destroyed, as witnessed by many news reporters throughout the New York/New Jersey area. We are talking about $62 billion and counting in damage and other losses in the country because of this latest storm.
To put Superstorm Sandy in perspective, Hurricane Katrina in 2005 left $128 billion damage in its wake, adjusted for inflation in 2012 dollars. In the Caribean, Sandy left no less than $315 million in damage.
A 2011 tornado in small town Joplin, Missouri left behind 2,600 tons of asbestos debris.
Contrast that one little community with all of the large communities, including the greater Manhattan area and the sizable New Jersey cities hit by Sandy. Linda Reinstein, president of the nonprofit Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization. “Do the math, and we can recognize that we have a significant public health risk with Hurricane Sandy.”
Along with schools and buildings, thousands of houses have water and wind damage, causing a spike in risks of exposure to various toxins. Asbestos related injury is one of the greatest concerns. Construction debris and waste likely contain microscopic asbestos fibers. Because these particles are virtually impossible to detect to the naked eye, people can unwittingly breathe it and ingest it. After time, mesothelioma or other severe medical conditions is a common result.
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.
According to Financial Times, Wolsely, the plumbing and heating products distributor, has warned some customers in the US and Canada that it may have inadvertently sold them asbestos gaskets.
Following two years of internal investigations, the company disclosed the problem regarding these gaskets today. The company expects legal action to result.
The problem with the parts, used as plumbing seals, was disclosed on Tuesday after two years of internal investigations. It is expected to lead to legal action.
Wolseley reported that four customers in the US and Canada found that the supposedly asbestos-free gaskets contained more than 1% asbestos, the threshold at which the products are required to have a label that it contains the dangerous substance.
The company blames the former Canadian supplier, Lortech rubber.
Ian Meakins, Wolseley CEO, says that it plans to sue Lortech. He also mentioned that he expects that several customers will file action against Wolseley.
Earlier this month, the California Supreme Court heard oral argument in O’Neil v. Crane Co. How the CA Supreme Court decides the case will likely either expand or limit the duty of the product manufacturers to warn about the hazards of replacement parts that others made but that are then incorporated by the purchaser in the manufacturer’s original product.
O’Neil is a case about a plaintiff’s exposure to asbestos-containing gaskets and packing materials used in and around Crane Co’s valves and pumps, which the Navy incorporated into the steam propulsion system aboard the USS Oriskany. The plaintiff had served on the Oriskany while he was enlisted.
Though the pumps and valves delivered to the Navy originally incorporated asbestos-containing gaskets and packing, all parties agreed that by the time plaintiff served aboard the Oriskany, the original asbestos packing and gaskets had been removed and replaced with packing and gaskets manufactured by third parties. Nevertheless, the plaintiff argued the pump and valve manufacturers had a duty to warn him regarding the hazards of asbestos.
The Court did not appear to sit well with the proposition that the pumps and valves could be deemed defectively designed if the pumps and valves were “asbestos neutral,” and could function just as well in other systems utilizing non-asbestos containing materials.
This may be a large focus for the court with regard to assigning a duty to warn about replacement parts made by others only if the replacement part is identical to the original hazardous part, and the replacement part is essential to the function of the defendant’s product. We await the decision, which will come out in about two and a half months from today.
In the Pacific Northwest, the railroad industry has been strong and active. Many national Railroads, such as the Union Pacific and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroads have had a long history in both Washington and Oregon. That history has included not only the motive of rail cars within Washington and Oregon, but, also the maintenance and repair of locomotives, as well as, rail cars, rail equipment and machinery.
Unfortunately, these activities have resulted in a great number of workers being exposed to the deadly asbestos fiber. Many of these workers have developed mesothelioma and other asbestos related cancers.
Rail workers who develop any asbestos related diseases, including mesothelioma should seek proper representation and obtain the justice they deserve.
I have written about the various shipyard locations in the State of Washington where many innocent workers were exposed to asbestos fibers. Too many of these hard working folks have developed mesothelioma or other asbestos-related cancers. In some cases, their family members were exposed to the fibers that they brought home in their clothing.
Mesothelioma and all asbestos-related cancers are deadly diseases that workers and their families should never have had to deal with.
For too long before shipyard exposure, manufacturers and asbestos companies knew of the dangers and disregarded these dangers. Profits over safety was all too often the case.
The asbestos containing products that shipyard workers handled or were exposed to includes, insulation, gaskets, gloves, coatings, ropes, fire protection materials, and cements. Their may be other products as well.
If you or a loved one have developed mesothelioma or any other asbestos-related disease, contact us.
Washington State shipyard workers were extensively exposed to asbestos. One shipyard where workers were exposed to deadly asbestos fibers was Lockheed Shipyard which was located in Seattle near the mouth of the Duwamish River. Lockheed was one of the oldest shipyards in the Pacific Northwest when it closed in 1988. Workers in the shipyard included boilermakers, pipefitters, insulators, welders and dockworkers. Mesothelioma takes decades to develop. Many older and and retired workers have developed the disease. Lockheed constructed naval frigates, transport vessels, icebreakers and various other ships during its operations. Sadly, many workers were exposed to asbestos during their work at the shipya