Asbestos Related Illnesses and Class Actions

  • March 20, 2024

Understanding Asbestos: A Basic Overview

Asbestos is a term used to describe six naturally occurring silicate minerals. Despite its useful properties, such as being resistant to fire, heat, and electrical damage, it is incredibly harmful to human health. The primary danger tied to asbestos is inhaling its fibers which can lead to a variety of diseases.

Exposure typically occurs in industrial settings, during renovations or demolitions, through certain products, or at asbestos mines. Despite regulations limiting its use, the potential for exposure remains. This is particularly true in older buildings where asbestos was predominantly used for insulation.

Several safety protocols today help to limit the risk of asbestos exposure or mitigate its impact when necessary. Nonetheless, negligence and breaches of these protocols can result in serious health implications, often paving the way to legal actions, particularly class action lawsuits.

Types of Asbestos-Related Illnesses

Asbestos is linked with several health conditions that often have severe, sometimes fatal, outcomes. The most significant of these conditions are asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma. Asbestosis is a chronic lung disease that causes shortness of breath, coughing, and lung damage. It can eventually lead to heart failure in severe cases.

Lung cancer is significantly more likely in people exposed to asbestos, with symptoms like chest pain, chronic cough, and difficulty breathing. While smoking also leads to lung cancer, smokers exposed to asbestos have an even higher risk of developing the disease.

Mesothelioma, although rare, is heavily tied to asbestos exposure. This cancer develops in the lining of the lungs, abdomen, or heart, and is most often fatal. With no known cure, early detection is crucial to improving survival rates.

The Medical Implications of Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos exposure comes with significant medical implications. Fibers can become lodged in lung tissue, leading to inflammation, scarring, and eventually, cancer. Symptoms may not emerge until decades after exposure, making these diseases challenging to diagnose early.

Treatments for asbestos-related illnesses largely involve managing symptoms, as many such conditions are incurable. With asbestos playing a role in 5% of lung cancer cases, and 80% of mesothelioma cases, the disease burden is substantial.

Despite its known dangers, millions of people have been and continue to be exposed to asbestos. This has led to extensive litigation, as those affected seek compensation for their suffering.

Who is at Risk for Developing Asbestos-Related Illnesses?

People who work in industries where asbestos was widely used are at the highest risk of developing asbestos-related illnesses. This includes construction, shipbuilding, and insulation industries.

Also, people who live with someone working in these industries are at risk through secondary exposure. This can happen when asbestos fibers are brought home on the worker’s clothing, hair, and skin.

Living close to a natural source of asbestos or an asbestos mine also poses a risk due to environmental exposure.

Tracking the History of Asbestos in Industries

Asbestos has been widely used in numerous industries due to its numerous beneficial properties. The construction industry extensively used it for insulation, roofing, and fireproofing. Similarly, the shipbuilding industry used it for its heat-resistant properties.

As the detrimental health effects of asbestos became more evident, its use decreased drastically, especially from the 1970s. However, many buildings and structures constructed before this time still contain asbestos, posing a constant risk of exposure.

The Connection Between Asbestos and Workplace Hazards

The direct link between asbestos and numerous workplace hazards can’t be understated. Many workplaces previously utilized asbestos due to its heat-resistant properties. Now that the health risks are known, workplaces have a responsibility to prevent asbestos exposure to their employees.

If this duty of care is breached, employees can contract asbestos-related illnesses. In these cases, those employers may find themselves facing legal action from those affected employees as they seek compensation for their illnesses.

Asbestos Litigation: What it Involves

Asbestos litigation is one of the longest, most expensive mass torts in U.S history. It involves claims against employers, property owners, asbestos product manufacturers, and others who failed to protect individuals from harmful asbestos exposure.

The process usually involves victims filing personal injury lawsuits or wrongful death lawsuits if a loved one died from an asbestos-related illness. In some cases, victims may join together and file a class action lawsuit against responsible parties.

Class Action Lawsuits Involving Asbestos

Asbestos class action lawsuits allow victims to pool their resources together when taking on defendants. These lawsuits can end in settlements in which compensation is allocated between plaintiffs according to their level of injury or suffering.

Over the decades, these lawsuits have resulted in billions of dollars in compensation for victims of asbestos-related illnesses. They have also resulted in improved regulations regarding asbestos to better protect workers and the public from exposure.

The Role of Lawyers in Asbestos Class Actions

Lawyers play a crucial role in asbestos class action lawsuits. They are responsible for gathering evidence, filing the lawsuit, representing the class during court proceedings, and negotiating settlements.

Asbestos-related illnesses claim tens of thousands of lives every year and affected individuals and their families deserve full and fair compensation. Lawyers advocate for these victims, ensuring their rights are upheld, and they receive the justice they deserve.

Landmark Cases in Asbestos Class Action Lawsuits

Several landmark asbestos class action lawsuits have occurred over the years, setting precedence in this area of law. Notably, the Manville Corporation, once the largest asbestos mining company in the world, faced lawsuits from over 16,500 individuals, leading to one of the first asbestos trust funds.

The hallmark case of Owens Corning Fiberglas also must be noted. In 2000, the company filed bankruptcy due to the overwhelming asbestos claims amounting to $7 billion. These cases and others have highlighted the massive scope and impact of asbestos litigation.


Press ESC to close