Practice/Industry Group Overview
Effects of asbestos can take decades to appear
Mesothelioma litigation is a type of toxic tort lawsuit typically brought against manufacturers, distributors, and suppliers of asbestos, a known hazardous substance used at one time in many products. Mesothelioma cases usually involve people facing terminal illness and great hardship. Even so, these cases can be difficult to prove. Often, a long period of time elapses between exposure to asbestos and the diagnosis of mesothelioma. Typically, several decades may pass before the symptoms of mesothelioma appear. Other asbestos-related illnesses include lung cancer and asbestosis, which may also be one of the early symptoms of mesothelioma.
Asbestos is a fibrous mineral known for its insulating and fire-retardant properties. For these reasons, asbestos was once a staple in most insulating products, many industrial and construction products, and was used extensively on U.S. Navy ships.
The problem with asbestos is that its fibers produce fine dust that, when inhaled, form deposits in the lungs that can cause serious and deadly illnesses. Both firsthand and secondhand exposure to asbestos can put an individual at risk.
Today, more than 3,000 everyday products may contain some amount of asbestos, but the widespread use of asbestos in the United States ended in the 1970s, thanks to government enactment of strict regulations for workplace exposure. Several federal and state agencies have the authority to regulate asbestos. These agencies include the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Asbestos illness: risk profile
People most at risk for developing mesothelioma or other asbestos-related illnesses include workers whose jobs directly expose them to asbestos fibers, especially those who worked with asbestos many years ago — yet even a minimal exposure can result in this or other asbestos-related illnesses. In fact, there are many documented cases in which the spouse or child of a worker exposed to asbestos on the job developed asbestos-related diseases. In these cases, the family member is exposed to asbestos particles that the worker brings into the home on his body, work clothes, and shoes. This type of asbestos exposure is called "household exposure," and it can be as deadly as being exposed to asbestos directly on the job.
Asbestos-related illnesses such as mesothelioma generally have a long latency period of up to 30 to 40 years, which means that people exposed to asbestos decades ago may only now be showing symptoms of the disease.
Malignant mesothelioma is an extremely aggressive cancer in which malignant cancer cells are found in the sac that lines the chest, abdominal cavity, or heart. Asbestos exposure is the only known cause of this devastating illness.
The average age of mesothelioma patients is between 50 and 70 years. Men are typically affected more, due to the common presence of asbestos in industrial settings. But women are not excluded. Household exposure to asbestos is a leading cause of mesothelioma in women. There are three types of malignant mesothelioma:
- Epithelioid — The most common type of mesothelioma
- Sarcomatoid or fibrous — also called fibrous mesothelioma
- Mixed — also known as biphasic mesothelioma, since both epithelioid and sarcomatoid cells are involved
Other asbestos cancers and illnesses
In addition to malignant mesothelioma, the most common asbestos-related conditions among workers or family members exposed to this devastating carcinogen are lung cancer and asbestosis.
Asbestos exposure is known to cause lung cancer in and of itself. The combination of asbestos exposure and cigarette smoking is especially deadly. Scientific studies published by the U.S. Surgeon General indicate that people who smoke and were exposed to asbestos on the job are 90 times as likely to develop lung cancer as people who smoke but were never exposed to asbestos.
Asbestosis is a lung disease caused by inhaling asbestos dust. The disease produces inflammation and scarring (fibrosis) of the lung. The scarring can severely compromise a person's health. In severe cases, it can be fatal. In addition to having the potential to be a serious disease in and of itself, asbestosis also can be an early symptom of asbestos-related cancer, such as mesothelioma.
Toxic tort litigation
Asbestos litigation encompasses mesothelioma lawsuits and is often called toxic tort litigation. This type of lawsuit is typically brought against a manufacturer, distributor, or supplier of a chemical or substance that causes injury or illness.
Toxic tort cases usually involve people facing devastating illness and great hardship. Even so, these cases can be difficult to prove. Often, a long period of time elapses between exposure to the toxin and diagnosis of a related illness. Sometimes, as in the case of cancer, several decades may pass before the cancer appears.
Many victims of asbestos disease and their families are entitled to receive asbestos exposure compensation because manufacturers of asbestos-containing products often knew about the dangers of asbestos, but failed to inform workers of the dangers.
How Waters, Kraus & Paul can help victims of asbestos exposure
With a national presence and a wealth of experience prosecuting mesothelioma cases, Waters, Kraus & Paul provides aggressive representation throughout the entire course of litigation. To learn more about legal representation at Waters, Kraus & Paul, or to have one of our attorneys review your potential mesothelioma or other asbestos-related illness case, email us or call 800.226.9880.