For years, individuals have argued that medical conditions, like mesothelioma, have been caused by exposure to asbestos—a fire-resistant silicate material typically found in paint, floor linings, ceiling tiles, fabrics, brake linings, talcum powder, and other products. Despite its apparent dangers, asbestos has yet to be completely banned. As a result, this substance has been embroiled in an extensive legal history. In fact, many legal cases have been brought against manufacturers of products containing asbestos, and several regulations and laws have also arisen in direct response to this material and its apparent dangers.
For instance, 100,000+ cases have been filed against the multinational company Johnson & Johnson (J&J) alone. Many legal suits were filed by users of the talc-containing products, said users later diagnosed with ovarian or other types of asbestos-related cancers. For instance, in 2019, a Georgia jury ordered the J&J company to pay over $37.2 million to individuals who were diagnosed with ovarian cancer after using their products. In another unprecedented case, J&J was ordered to pay $325 million to a user of their products who developed asbestos-related cancer, ($300 million in punitive damages, $20 million for her pain and suffering, and $5 million to her husband).
At the federal and state level, many regulations and laws are in effect to protect the public from asbestos and asbestos-containing products. Specifically these laws protect the public from how it is disposed and used. Asbestos laws and regulations are directed at how asbestos-containing products can be safely manufactured, used, and disposed of by businesses, agencies, and individuals. Asbestos dangers were initially recognized in the 1960s, and restrictions started to emerge in the 1970s. Asbestos legislation appears to evolve today as asbestos exposure results in cases of cancer, mesothelioma, and other harmful diseases.
Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)
The TSCA was first passed in 1976 to regulate how chemicals in daily use—including hazardous substances such as asbestos—are developed, used, and disposed of. However, since the TSCA became law, a number of individuals and organizations have opposed it and argue that this act does not provide adequate authority to enforce its provisions on regulatory agencies.
However, various agencies in the United States regulate the use of asbestos, including:
- US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
- Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA)
- US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)
Workers’ Compensation Cases Pertaining to Asbestos and Mesothelioma
According to the OSHA, as many as one million people in the United States go to their workplace where they are exposed to significant amounts of asbestos. The link between asbestos and serious health issues, such as mesothelioma, has been well established for decades. Asbestos.com, for instance, has provided brief summaries of the lawsuits where employers were held responsible for causing the toxic exposure. Here are a few notable cases:
In Illinois, a former steel worker died of mesothelioma, and, in 2005, his employer (US Steel) was ordered to pay $250 million to the deceased man’s wife. US Steel signed a postverdict settlement for an undisclosed amount deemed to be significantly lower than the compensatory award.
In Missouri, a circuit court judge approved a settlement of $10 million to Nancy Lopez in 2011. The courthouse employee of Jackson County was exposed to asbestos during a US-led renovation project. In 2010, two of Lopez’s former coworkers filed a class-action lawsuit against Jackson County and the engineering company who oversaw the project. They claimed that the courthouse and engineering company didn’t properly use air-handling pipes or engage in proper air-quality control that could have prevented the spread of asbestos dust in the courthouse. The case was eventually settled for $80 million to enable individuals who might have been impacted by the asbestos. The fund provided that they could receive testing for asbestos-related diseases and mesothelioma and proper medical care for the next thirty years.
Philip Depoian was awarded a record-setting $18 million verdict in an asbestos–talcum powder case by a Los Angeles Superior Court jury in the State of California, in November 2016. Depoian was diagnosed with mesothelioma, and the court case proved that he was exposed to asbestos-tainted talcum powder products from his father’s hair salon. His counsel further argued that Depoian was also exposed to asbestos-containing talc-powder products when he used King’s Men, Mennen Shave Talc, Old Spice, and other products containing talc/asbestos.
Occupations Most Affected by Mesothelioma
In addition to the above-mentioned cases, a number of individuals were exposed to asbestos and experienced cancer and other asbestos-related diseases. Occupational exposure, however, was not restricted to the workers themselves. Many others were exposed to asbestos through second-hand contact with someone who unknowingly brought home asbestos fibers on their skin, hair, or body.
People who worked in the following fields or professions may have been exposed to asbestos at some point in their careers:
- Car mechanics, where asbestos is used in brake linings and clutches.
- Construction workers, where asbestos has been integrated into fireproofing and many building materials, including roof shingles, tubes, siding, ceiling and floor tiles, and joint resin.
- While entering old buildings destroyed by fire or other attacks, firefighters, police officers, and paramedics can come into contact with asbestos.
- American veterans are one of the main professional groups still at risk when they were exposed. Additionally, many active duty servicemen and women continue to face asbestos exposure threats statewide and overseas.
If you have ever been exposed to asbestos and had a serious and deadly disease, such as mesothelioma or asbestosis, due to this exposure, you have legal options to pursue justice and remuneration. You are strongly recommended to get in touch with a qualified attorney specializing in asbestos and mesothelioma cases to handle your lawsuit.