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VancouverWashington - Paper Mills – $10.2 Million Mesothelioma Verdict
Former Camas mill worker defends award
By Michael Andersen Columbian staff writer
Publication: The Columbian (Vancouver,Washington)
Date: Thursday, December 24 2009
A worker who developed incurable cancer after 16 years atCamas' paper mill is fighting to keep a $10.2 million jury verdict in his favor.
HenryBarabin, currently ofSun City,Arizona, was assigned to use compressed air to clean a large felt ribbon that contained asbestos, his lawyer said in an interview Tuesday.
Barabin, now 70, worked at the mill from 1968 to 1984. Then operated by CrownZellerbach, the mill was the county's largest employer in the 1970s. In 2006, he wasdiagnosed withmesothelioma, a rare cancer of the pleura, the thin covering that protects the lungs. The disease is nearly always caused by exposure to asbestos, a mineral fiber widely used in construction and manufacturing for most of the 20th century.Barabin's family didn't respond to a call for comment. Today, Camas' Georgia Pacific mill and other paper mills use synthetic fibers instead of asbestos in their ribbons. But others who worked in paper mills before 1980 also risk developingmesothelioma or other, treatable cancers, saidBarabin's lawyer, JamesNevin ofBrayton Purcell LLP 's office inNovato,Calif., nearSan Francisco. "Asbestos is very strong, durable,"Nevin said. "The problem is, those same propensities - it has them when it is inhaled into your body." That's whyBarabin's condition might yet appear in other workers who had jobs involving asbestos. "People like him, who were exposed years ago, are still going to be developing diseases, because they are such long-latency diseases,"Nevin said. "Most doctors don't know to even ask about history of asbestos exposure. (At-risk workers) need to be assertively telling their doctor, 'I need to be monitored for this.'" In theU.S., about 3,000 people are diagnosed withmesothelioma annually,Nevin said.Barabin and his wife, GeraldineBarabin, suedScapa Dryer Fabrics andAstenJohnson, manufacturers of the paper-making equipment.
On Nov. 19, a federal jury inSeattle awarded theBarabins $10.2 million for medical expenses, lost income, suffering and lost years of their marriage. The two manufacturers are jointly liable. They are currently preparing arguments to overturn the verdict,Nevin said. Neither company could offer a spokesperson for comment Wednesday. CrownZellerbach's liability was covered by the state workers' compensation law.Nevin said theBarabins have already received payment through that system.Barabin lived inOregon when he worked at Crown,Nevin said. To protect themselves from liability,Nevin said, the manufacturers should have stopped producing felts that included asbestos. "They knew in the 1920s that asbestos dust released from products was causing asbestosis," he said. "They knew in the '30s that it was causing lung cancer. And by 1960 they knew it causedmesothelioma."