Articles Posted in Mesothelioma

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This summer, in an important case for those who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma and their family members, Bostic v. Georgia-Pacific Corporation, the Texas Supreme Court addressed causation in asbestos-disease lawsuits. The plaintiffs had sued for damages after the death of 40-year-old Timothy Bostic due to mesothelioma. Asbestos can cause mesothelioma. His relatives sued 40 defendants, claiming that exposure to their asbestos-containing products exposed him to asbestos, causing his mesothelioma. They sued on the basis of negligence and products liability. The defendant at issue in the appeal was Georgia-Pacific, which had produced drywall compound that the decedent had been exposed to as a child and teenager.

At trial, the jury found the drywall manufacturer and two other defendants liable, including a glass company and a former employer of the plaintiff. 75% liability was allocated to the manufacturer. The total damages were $6.8 million with $4.8 million in punitive damages. On appeal, the appellate court decided that the evidence of causation in the case was not sufficient, and a take-nothing judgment was rendered.

The plaintiffs asked the Court to review. The Court explained that in an earlier case it had held that to establish causation, the plaintiff had to prove the defendant’s product was a substantial factor in causing an asbestos-related disease, and just showing that a plaintiff was exposed to some respirable asbestos fibers traced to the defendant was not enough. The exposure to the defendant’s product had to be considered a substantial factor in causing the asbestos-related disease. The Court concluded there had to be reasonable evidence that the exposure was enough to exceed the threshold before it was considered likely to have caused the disease. Continue reading →

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Asbestos is the commercial name given to a variety of six naturally-occurring fibrous minerals. Because these minerals possess high tensile strength, flexibility, and resistance to heat, electricity and chemicals, asbestos was used in many buildings and other structures throughout the 1900s. After discovering that asbestos was a carcinogen, the U.S. government began to ban the use of asbestos in products. Unfortunately, even though asbestos has been banned for most uses since the 1980s, many buildings still contain asbestos.

According to the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH), more than seventy-five occupational groups are known to have exposed workers to asbestos. Yet, when people think of asbestos exposure, they usually think of individuals involved in the fields of construction, mining, drilling or mechanics, while often overlooking the risk exposure presents to firefighters. However, considering that firefighters and other first responders are often required to enter old structures that are either on the verge of collapsing or on fire, every time a firefighting operation involves a fire in a home or building that contains asbestos, there is a high probability that potentially deadly fibers will be released into the air.

Indeed, throughout the 20th century, asbestos was used in thousands of construction, commercial and household products, including, but not limited to, fire retardant coatings, insulation, pipes, drywall, flooring, roofing and sealants. In 2010, the NIOSH and the U.S. Fire Administration launched a multi-year study to examine whether fire fighters have a higher risk of cancer, including mesothelioma, due to job exposures from smoke, soot, and other contaminates, like asbestos. Although results will not be communicated to firefighters and the public until 2014, the existence of the study emphasizes the concerns of excessive rates of cancer among the 1.1 million volunteer and career fighters in the United States.

In addition to being exposed to asbestos products in building materials, firefighters are also exposed to asbestos through their protective clothing and even at fire stations. Since firefighters have to withstand high levels of heat, their clothes were made to also withstand high heat. As a result, from the 1930s to the 1970s firefighter helmets, pants and boots were made with asbestos. Even today, some firefighter clothing contains small quantities of asbestos. Similarly, dust from firefighter gear can build up in the fire station posing yet another risk for asbestos exposure among firefighters.

Notably, Texas is among the states with the highest employment of firefighters. At the same time, according to the Texas Department of Health Services, asbestos is present in over half of the state’s public buildings. Luckily, Texas has various programs in place to help protect against the risk of asbestos exposure. The Texas Department of Health Services’ Asbestos Program provides direct services to prevent occupational and environmental diseases through the identification, evaluation and control of asbestos health hazards. Additionally, The Texas Asbestos Health Protection Rules (TAHPR) requires that a person be appropriately licensed or registered to engage in asbestos abatement or any asbestos-related activity.

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The severe health effects associated with both occupational and non-occupational asbestos are well documented. However, the fact the asbestos-related diseases do not appear immediately is not as well known. According to the Texas Department of Health, asbestos-related diseases may not develop until 20 to 50 years after exposure.

Unfortunately, recent legislation proposed by a Texas lawmaker and the Texas Supreme Court’s upcoming decision in an asbestos case may make it more difficult for individuals to recover damages after suffering from exposure to asbestos, especially given the fact that the development of asbestos-related diseases often does not occur until many years after exposure.

Texas House Bill 1325 Will Allow for Dismissal of Certain Actions Arising from Exposure to Asbestos and Silica

On February 14, 2013, Texas Rep. Doug Miller filed H.B. 1325 that would allow Texas judges to dismiss thousands of pending asbestos and silica liability cases from Texas state courts. The bill proposes to clear inactive cases from the docket that were filed before the 2005 tort reforms relating to asbestos and silica litigation were enacted in Texas. Those reforms require individuals who alleged that they were harmed by asbestos exposure to submit a report showing that they were in fact diagnosed with malignant asbestos-related cancer or another medical condition as defined by statute. Per statute, the report must also prove that it was exposure to asbestos and/or silica that caused the disease, not other hazards such as smoking. When the law changed in 2005, all pending cases that failed to allege the requisite medical condition were moved to an inactive docket, where many remain today.

The proposed legislation would allow for all of those cases to be dismissed either on a defendant’s motion or by the court if they still do not include a medical report. If the bill passes and is signed by the governor, it will take effect September 1, 2013.

Supreme Court to Address Causation Requirements in Asbestos Case –Georgia-Pacific Corp. v. Bostic

On February 13, 2013, the Texas Supreme Court agreed to review the decision of the Court of Appeals in Georgia-Pacific Corp. v. Bostic. The Supreme Court’s decision in this case will have far reaching effects, essentially determining whether or not plaintiffs who worked primarily in Texas can continue to file asbestos lawsuits in Texas. The Supreme Court’s decision to hear this case is surprising given that they initially declined to hear plaintiff’s appeal.

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Mesothelioma is a rare form of lung cancer that is often caused by exposure to products that contain asbestos. According to the World Health Organization, about 100,000 people across the globe die from mesothelioma each year. In the United States, approximately 10,000 deaths occur annually as a result of the disease. Due to the usually lengthy time period between onset and diagnosis, most mesothelioma patients are only left with between six and 18 months of life once the disease is finally detected. Currently, testing for mesothelioma normally requires an invasive tissue biopsy.

New research has revealed information that may make the diagnosis and treatment of mesothelioma more successful. Researchers in Australia believe they have isolated blood markers that could make diagnosis of mesothelioma easier. According to the Asbestos Disease Research Institute, a microRNA molecule appears to be up to four times more common in patients with mesothelioma than in those without the disease. The new finding may potentially lead scientists to a quicker and more effective mesothelioma diagnostic tool in the future.

Additionally, researchers from the University of California-San Diego believe a non-small cell lung cancer vaccine in the works may also assist with mesothelioma treatment. Scientists from the Moores Cancer Center are successfully improving survival rates for up to 50 percent of difficult to treat lung cancer patients through clinical trials. According to researchers, the non-small cell lung cancer vaccine often boosts a patient’s immune response and even kills some cancer cells. A similar method may be used in the future to treat mesothelioma patients.

Many manufacturers of asbestos products ignored the deadly potential health hazards associated with the substance for decades. If you or a family member developed mesothelioma as a result of asbestos exposure, you may be eligible to receive monetary compensation from the companies that exposed you. A mesothelioma victim must file his or her damages claim within the time constraints of the statute of limitations, be able to demonstrate asbestos exposure, and locate viable companies that caused the exposure. Contact a qualified Texas mesothelioma lawyer to discuss how to go about filing your mesothelioma claim.

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