Asbestos


Since the symptoms of mesothelioma are similar to those of other cancers and because mesotheliomas often mimic other types of cancer, diagnosing mesothelioma can be difficult.

The diagnostic process begins with a review of the patient’s medical history and a physical examination. Radiographic examination by x-ray and/or CT scans or MRIs is usually performed. These radiographic findings may reveal pleural changes or stomach fluid that raises suspicion for mesothelioma.

If large amounts of fluid are discovered, then the fluid may be drained to see if abnormal cells are present. If cytology is positive for cancerous cells, then a biopsy is usually needed to confirm the diagnosis of mesothelioma. A biopsy is where a doctor surgically removes a tissue sample for examination under a microscope by a pathologist. A biopsy may be performed in different ways, depending on where the abnormal area is located. For example, small incisions may be needed in the chest or abdomen to obtain tissue samples for examination.

Mesothelioma treatment is primarily based on the staging of the tumor, as well as the age and health of the patient. Options may include chemotherapy, radiation, and in some cases, surgery.

  • Surgery: Surgery alone has not been an effective tool in treating mesothelioma. However, there has been some success when surgery is used in combination with radiation and chemotherapy. Delivering radiation and chemotherapy after a radical surgery has led to extended life expectancy in certain populations, with some patients surviving more than five years. As part of a curative approach to mesothelioma, radiotherapy is also commonly applied to the sites of chest drain insertion to prevent growth of the tumor along the track in the chest wall.
  • Radiation: Although mesothelioma is resistant to curative treatment with radiotherapy alone, radiation treatments are sometimes used to relieve symptoms caused by tumor growth. Radiation therapy, when given alone with curative intent, has never been shown to improve survival from mesothelioma.
  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is the only treatment for mesothelioma that has been proven to improve survival in trials. The most common chemotherapy treatment is a combination of cisplatin and pemetrexed (brand name Alimta). The combination of these two was proven effective in the landmark study published in 2003 by Vogelzang and colleagues that showed a statistically significant improvement in survival from 10 months in the patients treated with cisplatin alone to 13.3 months in the patients’ treated with a combination of cisplatin and Alimta. The study also showed improvements in the quality of life and lung function tests of the patients in the combination group.

Despite treatments, mesothelioma has a poor prognosis since there is no known cure for this disease.  The only known cause of mesothelioma is asbestos exposure.  If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma contact Jeff Nicholson to discuss your legal options.

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According to the AFL-CIO blog, an OSHA rule created to protect workers from asbestos hazards has been upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals.  In 2003 a contractor in Houston, Texas hired 11 immigrant workers to perform an asbestos abatement job.  The contractor, Eric Ho, did not train the workers or give them appropriate protection, such as respirators.  A city inspector ordered the job stopped because of the asbestos violations, but the contractor made the workers perform the job behind locked gates, after hours; putting the workers at great risk. 

OSHA issued 22 separate violations to the contractor.  Eleven violations for not providing each worker with a respirator and eleven for not training the workers on how to properly work around asbestos.  A Bush Administration Commission overturned most of the citations, saying the contractor could only be cited once for the training violation and once for the respirator violation, consequently reducing the number of fines facing the contractor from 22 to 2.

OSHA subsequently re-worded the rules to clear up the issue, stating that separate citations can be issued for each worker who is not properly trained and separate citations can be issued for each worker who is not given a respirator.  The National Association of Home Builders sued the government, claiming OSHA did not have the authority to rewrite the rule.

In National Association of Home Builders C. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that OSHA was operating within its authority when it made the rule.  The dangers of working with asbestos have been known for many years.  It can cause cancers including lung cancer and mesothelioma, as well as asbestosis.  The ruling of the court, that the employer can be fined for each worker it doesn’t protect, gives OSHA a hammer to combat employers who don’t protect their workers appropriately.

Garlock Sealing Technologies has filed for bankruptcy, according to a story on the WSJ Blog.  The company, founded in 1887, produces sealing materials for various sectors, including the petrochemical industry, the chemical industry, the power industry, and the paper industry.  For many years, approximately 1907 to 1980, Garlock produced gaskets, packing materials, and cloth that contained asbestos.  Garlock has been a defendant in numerous asbestos cases. 

In court documents Garlock listed the value of their assets at the $500 million to $1 billion range, and their debts in the $100 million to $500 million range.  The company is asking the court to establish a bankruptcy trust to pay asbestos related claims.  The filing also covers the Anchor Packing Company, an arm of Garlock that also produced asbestos containing products. 

Asbestos is a mineral widely used in the early to late part of the 20th century in industrial settings.  Breathing in asbestos can cause scarring of the lungs, which is called asbestosis.  This disease can prevent the lungs from expanding properly and leads to shortness of breath and even death.  There is no known cure for asbestosis, other than a lung transplant.  Asbestos also can cause cancer.  The most deadly cancer caused by asbestos exposure is mesothelioma.

According to a report on LAW.COM, a New Jersey appellate court upheld a verdict of $30.3 million, awarded to a mesothelioma victim.  Mesothelioma is a cancer of the lining around the lung caused by exposure to asbestos. 

The suit was brought by the wife of Mark Buttitta, who died from mesothelioma in 2002.  Buttitta’s father worked at a GM warehouse where he came into contact with asbestos containing products, such as brakes and clutches.  Buttitta was also exposed to asbestos when he worked in a GM warehouse as a college student.

Several defendants were sued, but only two defendants, Borg-Warner Corp. and Asbestos Corp. LTD. were remaining in the case at the time of trial.  Borg-Warner claimed that their products were not at the warehouse where Buttitta worked, and the claim was hard to prove because Borg-Warner had previously destroyed records of sales of their products to GM facilities.  However, John Fronig, a former GM manager testified in a case in Texas that Borg-Warner was the “prime” supplier of clutches to GM from the early 60’s until the mid-80’s. 

ACL, a Canadian company, was a major asbestos supplier to GM.  They asked the court to find that there was no personal jurisdiction over the company, because they are Canadian.  ACL also refused to participate in discovery in the case and was sanctioned, by striking their answer and defenses in the case.  ACL lost their appeal on all issues.

The verdict, the largest known verdict in New Jersey history, included $8 million for pain and suffering, $2 million for loss of consortium, $9 million for lost earning capacity, $2 million for loss of services, and $3 million to each child for loss of parental care.

According to Bloomberg, GM has accepted that liabilities for past products, manufactured by the bankrupt GM will stay with the new company which will be formed in the bankruptcy proceeding.  To quote the story:

GM “amended the sale agreement to clarify that it will take on some tax and workers’ compensation claims, maintain utility service to plants being left behind and accept future product liability and lemon law claims. That should significantly alleviate objectors’ concerns.”

That is good news for consumers: there will be a responsible party to pay for damages caused by the “old” GM’s negligence.  However the changes GM agreed to do not cover thousands of asbestos claims pending against the company.  Those claims would stay with the bankrupt entity, which would mean thse claimants will receive nothing.  In addition the agreement says that only claims arising after a new company is formed will be handled by the new company, meaning pending claims will stay with the bankrupt estate.

The Treasury-funded company, Vehicle Acquisition Holdings LLC, is the only potential buyer for GM.  The government’s goal for the company is to have the sale closed in 90 days.

According to a story on Bloomberg.com, asbestos personal injury claimants say the current bankruptcy plan to sell GM’s best assets to a new company may be unconstitutional, if asbestos claimants are left out of the decision making process.  GM had liability for over $600 million in legal claims related to asbestos in both 2007 and 2008.  That amount is not expected to start declining for several years.     

The Hill is reporting that both the GM and Chrysler bankruptcies will be structured to eliminate all future liability for injury claims related to vehicle defects.  This would include physical injuries caused by defective vehicle parts, such as vehicle rollover claims, as well as injury caused by asbestos. 

Victims with current claims are petitioning Congress to build in protections for the injured into the bankruptcy plans for these companies and filing petitions with the Supreme Court to delay the bankruptcies, which are currently on a fast track. 

According to CNN, the Supreme Court issued a stay order on Monday in the Chrysler bankruptcy, preventing the sale of their most valuable assets to a new company, partially owned by Fiat.  An Indiana state pension fund filed the request to delay approval of the bankruptcy because it felt it was not receiving fair treatment under the proposed plan.

EDIT:  CNN is reporting that the Supreme Court approved the Chrysler bankruptcy plan and the Fiat/Chrysler partnership is going through, with Fiat obtaining a 20% stake in the new company, Chrysler Group LLC.

A jury in McClean County Illinois awarded the family of a deceased mesothelioma victim over $2 million, according to a story on pantagraph.com.  The woman, Juanita Rodarmel, was married to a man who worked at the Union Asbestos & Rubber Company (UNARCO) plant in Bloomington, IL in the 1950’s. 

Ms. Rodarmel’s husband carried home asbestos fibers on his clothes and Ms. Rodarmel was exposed to the asbestos fibers from his clothes every time she was his clothes.  The jury awarded $100,000 in punitive damages against Pneumo Abex, LLC and $400,000 in punitive damages against Honeywell International.  The lawyers for Ms. Rodarmel’s family argued that Pneumo Abex and Honeywell International conspired with other companies to suppress the facts about the hazards of asbestos.

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