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LibbyMontana – Asbestos Exposure – Asbestos Related Deaths
Asbestos Related Deaths Continue to PlagueLibby,Montana
Posted by leah May 25th, 2010 |
In the small town ofLibby,Montana, asbestos and mesotheliomahave become a part of everyday life. The town, which is home to just 3,000 residents, has been identified as the deadliest Superfund site in the country as a result of the nearby asbestos-contaminated vermiculite mine.
Sisters Gayla Benefield and Eva Thomson are two of the town’s residents who have not only watched their friends and family die of mesothelioma. Both sisters have the asbestos fibers in their lungs and are now at risk themselves.
An estimated400 people have died in Libby due to asbestos illnesses and a near 1,500 residents have been exposed to the fibers as well. This means 15-20 people a month are diagnosed with asbestos-related illness in Libby alone. It was these shocking numbers that lead EPA chief Lisa Jackson to declare a health emergency in Libby last June.
Mesothelioma is an aggressive form of cancer. Occurring in three forms, mesothelioma can affect the lining of the lungs, the lining of the stomach and the lining of the heart. The disease is caused by the claw-like asbestos fibers that attach to the lining of the internal organs. No cure has been found for mesothelioma and only palliative treatments, including chemotherapy, currently exist.
Since 1999 the EPA has faced the task of cleaning up schools, businesses and homes. Yet in recent years roadways and soil have been added to the project agenda. The clean up will cost the EPA more than $333 million.
As for now the people of Libby continue to fight the ongoing battle- the battle for their health as well as the battle for the clean up of their town.
“People say, ‘Why don’t you leave Libby?’” Benefield said. “I’ve got the fiber in me. That won’t make the problem go away. Not at all.”
ering award inCalifornia, asbestos case not expected to stand
BY CHRIS RIZO
LOS ANGELES (Legal Newsline)-The Southern California jury that awarded a whopping$200 million punitive damages award in ahousehold-contact asbestos exposure case in which jurors awarded compensatory damages of $8.8 million will likely be reversed, a leading legal scholar said Sunday.
What could become the largest mesothelioma lawsuit award inCalifornia history was handed out late last month inLos AngelesCounty, home to one of the worst legal climates in the nation, according to civil defense lawyers.
"The award is unlikely to stand under California law, though I couldn't say if it's the trial court or appellate court that will reverse," Ted Frank, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute Center for Legal Policy, told Legal Newsline.
In a move that signals judicial scrutiny of the jury award, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Conrad Richard Aragon has postponed entering the judgment, which has a ratio of punitive damages to compensatory damages of nearly 23:1.
Aragon has asked the plaintiffs' lawyers and defense counsel to submit briefs on what their side seen as an appropriate punitive damages award in the case.
In reporting on the decision legal blogger and attorney Bruce Nye ofSan Francisco expressed little surprise that the gigantic jury award was given in the jurisdiction it was.
"Ah yes, there will always beLos Angeles juries," the managing partner of Adams Nye Trapani Becht wrote on his CalBizLit.com Web site.
A Harris Interactive survey of 1,482 top corporate lawyers and executives released in March ranked Los Angeles County's courts as the second-worst in the nation for legal fairness, partly because of what critics decry as exorbitant damage awards issued by juries there.
If allowed to stand, the punitive damages award would dwarf the largest award currently to survive appeal inCalifornia - $55 million awarded to SUV rollover crash victim Benetta Buell-Wilson and her husband in 2004 in aSan DiegoCounty case against Ford Motor Co. The Michigan-based carmaker ultimately appealed its judgment to the U.S. Supreme Court, which last year rejected Ford's arguments.
As for theLos Angeles case, it is among asbestos-exposure lawsuits that comprise the longest-running mass tort inU.S. history. Since 1929, when the first asbestos-exposure case was filed, more than 600,000 people have filed lawsuits in American courts after being diagnosed with asbestos-related conditions including mesothelioma and asbestosis.
TheLos Angeles case was filed by Rhoda Evans, who claimed her mesothelioma, a rare lung cancer, was caused by asbestos fibers and dust she breathed while washing work clothes belonging to her husband, a former longtime employee at the county's Department of Water and Power.
In his 24 years at the public works department, Bobby Evans was charged with cutting cement pipes containing crocidolite, a dangerous asbestos fiber. He started working at DWP in 1973.
The pipe was made by building materials manufacturer CertainTeed Corp., which at trial argued the county knew the pipes should only be cut with manual tools to protect workers.
Evans's attorneys said CertainTeed actually concealed the risk of asbestos exposure from DWP officials in an effort to protect the $40 million in annual revenues the company made on selling asbestos-containing cement pipe to the county.
Siding with plaintiffs' counsel William Levin of the Simes Kaiser & Gornick law firm ofSan Francisco, jurors determined that the company knew asbestos caused cancer in the 1960s, but did not place cancer warnings on its products until 1985.
In the company's defense, CertainTeed's attorney, William Sayers of McKenna Long & Aldridge, said the Department of Water and Power "knew generally" about the pipes' hazards but still began using a gas-powered saw to cut them, ignoring risks to employees' safety.
"They were cutting safely until 1978," Sayers was quoted as saying by Courtroom View Network, which broadcast the trial on the Internet.
CertainTeed is a wholly owned subsidiary of Compagnie de Saint-Gobain SA ofFrance.
The case is Evans v. AW Chesterton Co et al., case no. BC418867.
From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at firstname.lastname@example.org
Chicago – Asbestos Trades – $14 Million Mesothelioma Jury Award
Jury gives Ford victory in Madison County asbestos trial
3/12/2010 6:39 PM By Amelia Flood
Jurors in a rareMadisonCountyasbestos trial handed a victory to the defendant, Ford Motor Company, after an hour and a half of deliberations on Friday.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs had asked for more than $14 million in damages.
Ford was sued along with a number of other brake manufacturers for allegedly selling products that caused aChicago man'smesothelioma.
Ford was the only defendant that did not settle its case with plaintiffs Larry and Meta Williams.
Meta Williams had made a claim for loss of consortium.
Others defendants were dismissed from the suit before and during trial.
Lead defense counsel Manuel Sanchez of Sanchez Daniels & Hoffman ofChicago praised both the jury and Madison County Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder for the verdict.
"It's a new day inMadisonCounty for corporateAmerica," Sanchez said. "Not only did we get a great jury, we got a terrific, fair and impartial judge."
Plaintiff's attorney Jonathan Ruckdeschel of the Ruckdeschel Law Firm of Maryland expressed his disappointment with the verdict.
"I'm disappointed for the Williamses but everyone should have their day in court," Ruckdeschel said.
The Williams case is the first asbestos trial of 2010. It is also the first helmed by Crowder.
Crowder was named to replace Madison County Circuit Judge Daniel Stack as the new asbestos judge. Although she is not set to officially take over Stack's asbestos duties until his December retirement, Crowder has already heard asbestos motion calls and began entering orders in February in the Williams case.
Sanchez called Crowder "an impressive jurist."
Larry Williams, 57, had alleged thatasbestos in brake dust caused him to develop mesothelioma.
Ford denied that it acted negligently and that its products had caused the disease.
The trial opened March 3.
Throughout the eight day trial, jurors heard testimony from Williams, his wife, and family members as well as a number of experts ranging from Larry William's oncologist to Dr. Patrick Hessel, an epidemiologist who testified for Ford.
Jurors rendered their verdict after several hours of closing arguments Friday afternoon.
In closings, Ruckdeschel asked jurors to remember the case's importance.
"It's a case about the life and death of a human being," Ruckdeschel said.
He pointed to testimony from Larry Williams' oncologist, Dr. Hedy Lee Kindler, that doctors understand that mechanics and brake workers develop mesothelioma.
Brakes parts throughout the 20th century contained asbestos fibers.
The plaintiff contended that those fibers were also present in dust released when brakes were taken apart.
"This is not controversial outside of the courtroom," Ruckdeschel said. "This stuff is dangerous."
Ruckdeschel stressed that Ford began warning its own employees about the dangers of asbestos from the late 1960s, but that it did not warn the general public.
He attacked fees that Ford paid its experts for testimony in the Williams case and other cases that topped more than $30 million, claiming the company "bought science."
He pointed to a memo from the early 1970s in which Ford discussed internally changing out its brake parts that contained asbestos for parts that did not. According to the memo, which was shown to jurors during the course of the trial, it would have cost the company about $1.25 a part.
Ruckdeschel argued that Ford did not want to spend the money and as a result, Larry Williams was exposed to dangerous materials during his years working on brakes in his cousin'sChicago garage.
"The consequences of this are people like Larry Williams continued to breathe asbestos," Ruckdeschel told jurors. "You got a snoot full of asbestos."
Ruckdeschel dismissed defense testimony that brake dust contains one percent asbestos fibers and argued its experts were "distractions," put on by the company in an attempt to avoid responsibility.
"They are at fault," Ruckdeschel said of Ford. "You can't decide who deserves a warning and that's exactly what Ford did. You can't bet my client's life for your money. And that's what Ford did."
In asking for damages, Ruckdeschel told jurors that the parties had stipulated that Larry Williams' medical bills were $342,033 and that his lost earnings would be $371,860.
He suggested the jury award his client:
· $2 million for the loss of his normal
· $5 million for his shortened life expectancy
· $5 million for his pain and suffering
· $2 million to Meta Williams for the loss of her husband's consortium.
In opening his closing argument, Sanchez countered that he was "shocked" by Ruckdeschel's plea for more than $14 million.
He called it "ridiculous," contending that Larry Williams did not work on Ford brakes and therefore, the company was not liable for his mesothelioma.
"Who's doing the distracting here?" Sanchez said, indicating the plaintiff's table. "Their side!"
Sanchez pointed to charts made up from testimony by Williams and his cousin about how many brake jobs he had done and what brake products he used. According to the charts, Williams handled other products, not Ford's. Sanchez also hammered at differences in Larry Williams' memories of his employment and his cousin's, citing social security records. During part of the time Williams claimed to have been working inChicago, the social security records show his employers were located inTennessee andArkansas.
"I don't care who you are, you can't be in two places at one time," Sanchez told jurors. "Ford is not guilty of negligence and nothing that has been shown to you these past two weeks ... caused Mr. Williams' mesothelioma."
He stressed the 19 studies his experts presented that showed that brake workers had no increased mesothelioma risk and dismissed Ruckdeschel's arguments about "bought science."
Sanchez referenced his client's lone place at the defendant's table, and calling himself and his client, "the last Mohican."
Sanchez asked jurors to decide the case on "credibility, science and common sense."
Sanchez called the damages demand "inflammatory," and decried the plaintiff's arguments about Ford's internal warnings as a case of "no good deed goes unpunished."
"We should not be punished for being proactive," he said.
Ruckdeschel countered in his closing that warning some people and not others did not excuse the company. He showed a power point slide of a snarling dog and "Beware of Dog" sign.
"You can't pick and choose whose life you protect," he told jurors.
While Ruckdeschel had objected multiple times during Sanchez's closing, Sanchez rose when Ruckdeschel characterized his client using violent imagery.
"Mr. Williams is dying from millions of tiny asbestos fibers stabbing him in the chest and getting in the wall and causing cancer," Ruckdeschel had told jurors. "Ford is standing in room with a bloody knife saying it wasn't my bloody knife. My bloody knife can't cause cancer."
Crowder sustained the objection.
As the 2009 suit went on, the other defendants in the suit dropped out, leaving Ford as the sole party at the defendants' table. The last defendant to drop out of the case, John Crane Inc., left the suit Thursday. Crowder announced the departure during testimony Thursday and referenced it again in jury instructions.
The jury began deliberations began at about 4:15 p.m. The verdict was entered shortly before 5:45 p.m.
The Williamses were also represented by T. Barton French ofSt. Louis and Nathaniel Mudd of Edwardsville.
Ford was also represented by Darrell Grams of Addison, Tx., Eric Bergstrom ofRedwood City,Calif., Ryan McQueeney ofChicago and others.
The case isMadison case number 09-L-537.
SeattleWashington – Asbestos Trades –Asbestos Lawsuits
Asbestos Lawsuits Gaining Momentum
December 9, 2009. By Jane Mundy
Seattle,Washington: Although paper mill workers are typically not at high risk for asbestos exposure, aSeattlejury awarded $10.2 million last week to Mr. and Mrs.Barbin in a lawsuit filed against two former manufacturers of asbestos-laden dryer fabrics used on paper machines.
HenryBarbin worked as a pulp tester, paper tester, and more at Scapa Dryer Fabrics, Inc. andAstenJohnson, Inc. between 1964 and 2001. Exposed to asbestos fibers from dryer fabrics for almost 40 years, he wasdiagnosed withmesothelioma cancer in 2006.
Henry and GeraldineBarbin's asbestos lawsuit claimed that the asbestos dryer fabrics were defectively designed and failed to carry warnings about the dangers of asbestos exposure. HenryBarabin was awarded $700,000 for medical expenses, lost income and household services and $8 million in non-economic damages for pain and suffering. GeraldineBarbin was awarded another $1.5 million for her loss of consortium claim.
More Asbestos Lawsuits Underway
On November 20, 2009, Betty Lou Cunningham filed a lawsuit against ChevronUSA, claiming the oil company is responsible for the death of her husband, Billy Cunningham.
The suit alleges that Chevron failed to protect its workers from potentially deadly asbestos dust and fibers. It also claims that Chevron knew the hazards associated with asbestos-containing products but chose not to remove employees from the toxic environment.
While employed at Gulf Oil, Mr. Cunningham was exposed to toxic materials including asbestos dust and/or fibers, which caused him to developmesothelioma lung cancer—an asbestos-related disease—from which he died in February 2009.
According to Asbestos.com, Ms. Cunningham seeks “to recover from the defendant an amount in excess of the jurisdictional limits of the courts.”
On December 7, 2009, aTexas couple filed a lawsuit against 100 companies. Charles Dees and his wife, MaryGuidroz, allege that the companies’ negligence and lack of safety measures exposed Mr. Dees to occupational asbestos for nearly 30 years, resulting in his diagnosis of lung cancer in 2007. Mr. Dees and Ms.Guidroz have included as defendants in the suit gasoline companies BP, Chevron, and A.W. Chesterton.
The suit claims that the defendants' facilities were unsafe and contained asbestos-containing insulation, which was sold and manufactured by product defendants.
Meanwhile, 760 Libby vermiculite miners and residents are still waiting for justice after civil claims against Maryland-based W.R. Grace & Co., the global supplier of catalysts and other products, were halted in 2001 when Grace filed for bankruptcy. W.R. Grace's liability, in this case, was estimated to range from $385 million to over $6 billion. The company proposed to pay into a trust fund from which past, present and future victims can request fair compensation until 2034, providing the judge and a majority of claimants are in agreement.
San Francisco – Asbestos Lawsuit – $7 Million Mesothelioma Award
Couple awarded $7 million in asbestos lawsuit
Thursday, March 13, 2008
(03-12) 17:25 PDTSAN FRANCISCO -- ASan Francisco jury has ordered an asbestos manufacturer to pay more than $7 million in damages for exposing a onetime film actress and singer to the fibers that caused her terminal cancer while she was working in a home-remodeling business with her husband, the couple's lawyer said Wednesday.
The Superior Court jury assessed Joan and Daniel Mahoney's damages at $20 million Monday and assigned 30 percent of the responsibility to Georgia Pacific Corp., the only defendant in the trial, said attorney JohnLangdoc. He said the company probably would be ordered to pay a slightly higher proportion of the award, $7.1 million, under the rules on shared liability.
The rest of the damages will go unpaid, but the couple previously reached confidential settlements with other manufacturers,Langdoc said. He said the verdict was one of the largest ever in an asbestos case.
Joan Mahoney, 69, who now lives inSouth Lake Tahoe, was too ill for an interview Wednesday, her lawyer said. He quoted her as saying, "I'm happy that in the last part of my life, I've been able to make a difference in the corporate conduct of Georgia Pacific."
The company said it would appeal.
"We sympathize with Mrs. Mahoney and her family," Georgia Pacific attorney John Childs said in a statement. "However, based on the use, frequency and amount of exposure she has described - as well as the type of asbestos fiber that was contained in our joint compound - it is highly unlikely that a product formerly made by GP could have caused her injuries and illness."
Langdoc said Joan Mahoney grew up inSan Francisco, with alcoholic parents who were unable to care for her, and got her first job at 13 singing at the Purple Onion inNorthBeach by telling the management she was 18.
She moved toLos Angeles two years later and pursued a career in show business for 30 years, appearing in a low-budget 1965 film called "Psycho a Go-Go," singing at nightclubs and touring the world seven times with the USO, her lawyer said.
She and her husband, a Bay Area math teacher, moved toSouth Lake Tahoe in the late 1960s and started a part-time remodeling business to make ends meet,Langdoc said. He said the products they used included an asbestos compound made by Georgia Pacific to fill cracks in sheetrock.
The lawsuit claimed that the company continued making the compound long after learning that asbestos could cause cancer and competitors found substitutes, and stopped only after the federal government outlawed asbestos products in 1977.
The couple sued in 2006 after Joan Mahoney wasdiagnosed withmesothelioma, a type of lung cancer linked to asbestos exposure. Doctors then gave her no more than nine months to live,Langdoc said.
He said she is living in pain from the disease while also caring for her husband of 42 years, who suffered a stroke last year.
Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/03/12/BADMVINSN.DTL&feed=rss.bayarea#ixzz0pGJszUfc
Kansas CityMissouri – Asbestos Company – $4.5 Million Verdict
Family ofKansas City Man Awarded $4.5 Million in Asbestos Mesothelioma Lawsuit
Posted by Staff Writer
August 18, 2009 8:50 AM
Back in June, a jury ruled that three companies were responsible for themanufacturing anddistribution ofasbestos-laden ceiling tiles and awarded the wife and adult children of aKansas City manwho installed those tiles $4.5 million.
Lead counsel during the trial wasTroyce Wolf of Waters Kraus who noted the plaintiff's win was against long odds and thanked the family and theinstaller's co-workers for their courage. Theinstaller, Robert Wagner, died six months after being diagnosed with Mesothelioma and was not able to be deposed for the trial.
While this is another in the long line of stories aboutworkers injured by asbestos, I found it interesting that thedefendant companies offered bothasbestos and non-asbestos tiles more than 30 years ago. As a relatively young person myself, I just assumed everything was made with asbestos back then.
It's unfortunate (and ironic, really) that in the process of trying to keep people safe bymanufacturing anddistributingfire-retardant tiles and otherproducts, corporations were actually injuring thousands of workers who had to work with or around these products (tiles,drywall,insulation,joint compound). Fortunately, products used these days are made with safer materials, and workers' safety gear such as gloves, masks and clothing have become more protective as well.
LibbyMontana - Asbestos Mine Workers – Asbestos Deaths
Asbestos Lawsuit for LibbyMontana Vermiculate Mine Workers
Jun 13, 2003 | AP
Hundreds of mine workers inHelena,Montana, became ill or died while the state wrongly kept studies secret that documented thedangers of asbestos, former mine workers allege in a lawsuit about to be argued in the state's highest court.
Eight former mine workers and the wife of one miner are plaintiffs in the suit, which contends the state knew as early as 1956 of dangers posed by exposure to asbestos dust from a vermiculite mine in Libby.
The nine plaintiffs, all diagnosed withasbestos-related health problems, believe the state was negligent in failing to warn them and their families of the risks. They are seeking unspecified damages.
The case, to be argued June 26 before the Montana Supreme Court, appeals an August decision by District Judge Jeffrey Sherlock, who threw out the suit after concluding the state had no legal obligation to warnLibby residents of the danger.
In their appeal, the nine residents contend the state stood by while a "human disaster of epic proportions unfolded inLibby."
Libby was once home to a vermiculite mine operated by W.R. Grace & Co. from 1963 until it closed in 1990. The company is now in bankruptcy.
Asbestos in the vermiculite ore has been blamed for hundreds of illnesses and at least200 deaths. The Environmental Protection Agency has been cleaning up the mine site and other contaminated areas in the town since 1999, andLibby was declared a Superfund site last October.
A federal study in 2000 found the death rate in Libby from all asbestos-related illnesses had been 60 times the national average.
Twenty-three cases of mesothelioma, a rare type of asbestos-related cancer, apparently have their origins inLibby, said Paul Peronard,Libby's EPA coordinator. That is a rate of one case for every 1,000 residents, 100 times the national average, according to the EPA.
The state argues that state law and an attorney general's opinion demanded that the government keep secret the information it gathered in a series of seven studies from 1956 to 1974.
The state had no obligation to warnLibby residents, and no power to set standards to asbestos exposure or regulate mine safety, the government argues. Also, government was immune from suits for actions before the new Montana Constitution eliminated that protection in 1973, state lawyers said.
The state also contends the law requires employers not the state to ensure a safe workplace, even if the government conducted limited inspections of the site.
In his ruling last year throwing out the suit, Sherlock noted that the claims against the state did not come up until after Grace filed for bankruptcy, effectively halting scores of lawsuits filed against the company by current and formerLibby residents.
"The state ofMontana should not become the default defendant in every case where the true wrongdoer has no money or is otherwise unavailable to satisfy the damage that he has caused," Sherlock wrote.
- Associated Press
Los Angeles– Asbestos Company – Asbestos Lawsuit
Asbestos Suits Become More Widespread
Sep 26, 2002 | TheLos Angeles Times
Asbestos litigation has ensnared more than 6,000 companies--triple previous estimates--and is affecting nearly every industry, a Rand Institute study said Wednesday.
U.S. companies have paid out $54 billion on more than 600,000asbestos injury claims filed since the early 1970s, the Rand Institute for Civil Justice reported. Asbestos claims ultimately could cost as much as $210 billion, according to projections cited in the study, and more than 60 companies--22 of them in the last two years--have sought bankruptcy protection to staunch their losses.
The rising cost of the lawsuits has brought calls for reforms, and on Wednesday corporate defenders, insurers and lawyers for asbestos-related cancer victims seized on theRand report as evidence of the need for change in a hearing on asbestos litigation before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The hearing coincided with this week's opening of a massive class-action suit inWest Virginia involving more than 5,000 plaintiffs and dozens of corporations including Exxon Mobil Corp., Owens-Illinois Inc., Westinghouse Electric Corp. and Union Carbide, now part of Dow Chemical Co.
In a measure of the breadth of the litigation, Rand found asbestos suits had been filed against companies in 75 of 83 industry sectors tracked by the government, said Stephen Carroll, the Rand senior economist who headed the study.
"The bankruptcies are the tip of the iceberg," Carroll said. "Under the surface there are a lot of corporations that are being hit hard by asbestos liabilities and they are putting their money into compensation payments instead of investment."
TheRand study also renewed questions about whether the growing pile of lawsuits is benefiting the victims of asbestos. Despite the enormous economic costs, the authors conclude that asbestos litigation is failing to adequately compensate the most seriously ill victims and no longer poses a deterrent to the pursuit of profits at the expense of worker health.
After the costs of litigation, asbestos claimants now receive 43 cents of every dollar spent on asbestos compensation, a slight improvement over the 37 cents thatRand researchers said reached plaintiffs' pockets 20 years ago. At the same time, the most seriously ill victims--people with lung cancer and mesothelioma, an incurable asbestos-related cancer--get little more than a third of all payouts, the study said.
The study echoes others' concerns that a surge in claims in the last four years from people who may have been exposed to asbestos but are not sick is draining money away from cancer victims who have high medical expenses and are no longer able to earn a living.
"The system looks worse 20 years later," said Deborah Hensler, aStanfordUniversity law professor who contributed toRand's first asbestos litigation study in 1982 and to its latest. "The system [in 1982], however inefficiently, was performing its job of corrective justice. It was making the bad guys pay. And by making the bad guys pay, the system was sending a very strong message to other potential bad guys working with other products that 'If you engage in this kind of behavior, you might find yourself in bankruptcy.' "
Today, Hensler said, high legal costs and payouts to claimants without serious injuries are diverting money away from cancer victims, and corporateAmerica no longer believes that only the most culpable companies pay.
Because litigation has spread to hundreds of companies outside the asbestos mining and manufacturing business, Hensler said, executives of recently targeted companies are saying, " 'This is not fair. We are being asked to pay for something that other blame-worthy companies did.' "
Fred Baron, a pioneering asbestos lawyer fromTexas and a recent president of the Assn. of Trial Lawyers of America, disputed the idea that "uninvolved companies" are being unfairly swept into the fray.
"While these companies did not manufacture asbestos, they used, distributed or otherwise sold products to others knowing that their asbestos content was likely to injure downstream users," Baron said. "Other defendants purchased companies, often at a discount, knowing these companies had substantial asbestos liability."
Baron's comments came during the Judiciary Committee hearing.
But Steve Kazan, anOakland lawyer who represents only cancer victims, told the committee that unless Congress steps in, there will be no money left to compensate people who fall victim to asbestos cancers over the next 50 years.
An estimated 27 million workers were heavily exposed to asbestos between 1940 and 1973. But, because mesothelioma can take 40 years or more to appear, at least 2,500 new cases are diagnosed each year, and the disease is widely expected to claim hundreds of thousands of lives in 30 to 50 years.
To preserve funds for future mesothelioma victims,Kazan has taken the unusual position of joining corporations and insurers in proposing that Congress establish medical thresholds that would bar claims from people who are not functionally impaired. Other asbestos reform efforts have failed over the years, and, despite more than a year of lobbying, the latest idea has not found its way into a bill.
Baron, testifying on behalf of the trial lawyers association, urged the congressional committee to continue its restraint, saying the proposed reforms would harm the rights of most asbestos victims.
"Although they will argue that the only way to pay more to the sickest is by paying less to others, the defendants' real goal is to pay less total asbestos compensation," Baron said. "The concept that a victim must be impaired before their claim can be heard is an invention of the asbestos defendants designed to limit their liability."
Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), who chairs the committee, said he was interested in coming up with a bill that would respond to the neediest victims, but he said the committee was unlikely to take it up before Congress adjourns for the year.
TheLos Angeles Times
Los Angeles - Asbestos Company - Mesothelioma Death
Judge Overturns $5.6M Award in Asbestos Case
By JEFF GORMAN
LOS ANGELES (CN) - A couple's $5.6 million judgment in an asbestos liability case was wiped away by aCalifornia appeals court.
Edward and Carol Walton won their case for negligence and strict liability over the William Powell Co. The Waltons had contended that Edward had contracted lung cancer from asbestos-laden materials associated with valves that were made by Powell.
Walton worked with the materials during his service in the Navy from 1946 to 1968. He spent the next 31 years running a painting company, during which time he also worked with asbestos-laden products. The Waltons sued 46 defendants, but Powell was the only one remaining by the middle of the trial, and the only one ordered to pay the $5.6 million judgment.
On appeal, Justice Nora Manella ruled that Powell was not liable for Walton's injuries, and overturned the award. She ruled that Edward was injured by the asbestos insulation around Powell's valves, not by the valves themselves. "Powell supplied none of the asbestos products to which Edwards was exposed, and its valves had no defect rendering Powell liable for the injuries that Walton may have sustained through exposure to asbestos products from other sources," she wrote.