The United States began phasing out use of asbestos in the 1970s, but exposure to asbestos continues to harm people. In many cases, the harm stems from exposure that occurred decades earlier. Mesothelioma, an incurable form of cancer caused by asbestos exposure, can develop for many years before it is detected.
When people discover that they have been injured do to asbestos exposure, they may consider filing a legal claim against the people or organizations responsible. These claims serve several purposes. For one, they serve the cause of justice by holding defendants accountable for putting others at risk through asbestos. For another, they help the injured and their families cope with the medical expenses, pain and suffering and the other damages they suffer as a result of their asbestos-related illness.
In this post, we will briefly discuss two verdicts that illustrate some of how asbestos-related litigation works and the value of the damages involved, but first we will discuss some background information.
Where was asbestos used?
Asbestos is a naturally-occurring fibrous substance that was once widely used in industry and construction because of its fire-resistant properties. Scientists eventually discovered that asbestos fibers could get into people’s lungs, where they can cause mesothelioma and other terrible health problems. In the late 1970s, federal regulators banned the use of asbestos in certain construction materials. Many other industries began voluntarily discontinuing use of the substance. By the late 1980s, the Environmental Protection Agency had banned all new uses of asbestos and called for inspections and other efforts to reduce the risk to the public.
This, unfortunately, was not the end of the story. Asbestos was still allowed for existing uses. The use of asbestos today is a fraction of what it was 50 years ago, but even so there were about 360 metric tons of the substance used in industry in 2015. There was also the problem that asbestos continues to exist in many older buildings and products, where people continue to be exposed to it.
Shipyard worker: $11.2 million verdict
In one case, Bergamn Draper Oslund Udo, PLLC, represented a man who worked as a laborer for Zidell Dismantling in the Port Industrial Yard of Tacoma, where he helped to dismantle U.S. Navy ships. These older ships contained asbestos, which was used as fireproof insultation. Many years later, the man was diagnosed with mesothelioma.
Since mesothelioma is caused only by exposure to asbestos, and asbestos was known to be present in the man’s workplace, it was more likely than not that the man’s illness was caused by asbestos exposure in his workplace. At the age of 75, the man was awarded more than $11.2 million in a verdict.
World War II-era exposure: $10 million verdict
In another asbestos-related case, our law firm, Bergman Draper Oslund Odo, PLLC, helped an older married couple to recover $10 million in compensation. The husband had been diagnosed with mesothelioma, and determined that his exposure to asbestos dated back to World War II. Family members who worked with asbestos came home with asbestos fibers on their clothes. As a child, the man breathed in these fibers and developed mesothelioma only many years later.
The two cases described above ended in unusually high verdicts for the injured. The amount of compensation depends on many factors, including the medical expenses and other damages of the injured. Another factor is the legal theory used to hold another party liable. No two cases are exactly the same, just as no two people’s stories are exactly the same. Those who have been harmed due to asbestos exposure can speak with experienced attorneys to learn how the law may apply to their unique set of circumstance.