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Mesothelioma and Workers’ Compensation Issues

Mesothelioma is a very rare cancer that forms in a layer of tissue know as the mesothelium, hence the name mesothelioma. While most people associate mesothelioma with lung cancer, it is not technically lung cancer. It is an entirely different form of malignant cancer that often forms in the lungs, abdomen, or chest.

judgeWhile it is medically possible to develop malignant pleural mesothelioma (lungs), malignant pericardial mesothelioma (chest), or malignant peritoneal (abdomen) mesothelioma without ever having been exposed to toxic asbestos fibers, the chance of that happening is extremely remote. In reality, almost all cases of malignant mesothelioma are caused by exposure to deadly asbestos.  During the process of diagnosing a patient with malignant mesothelioma, the asbestos fibers will generally still be visible in the cancerous tissue, so the body has no ability to break them down, which is one of the major reasons they are so dangerous.  

One other aspect of mesothelioma that allowed companies to get away with poisoning their workers and members of the general public for so long was the fact that it typically takes between 20 and 50 years for a victim to develop detectable symptoms. Once victims experience shortness of breath, often coupled with chest or stomach pain, and go to a doctor, they may find out they only have a very short period of time left to live. Often, a patient will be told he or she has less than a year to live without very aggressive treatment, and even with treatment, he or she will probably only get another 18 months to live, on average, and this is at the cost of a very invasive and painful course of treatment.

The fact that it takes decades for victims to learn they have mesothelioma is the reason companies were able to keep harming their workers. They knew that it would be years before anyone found out, and, since the general public was unaware of the dangers of asbestos, they could make a great deal of money at the time and were not concerned with worker safety 20 to 50 years in the future.   A recent article from Business Insurance discusses the problem one mesothelioma sufferer had after learning he had malignant mesothelioma about 40 years after working the job at which he was exposed to the deadly fibers.   In this case, the problem was that workers’ compensation was seen as his only appropriate remedy, but there was a 25-year statute of limitations on filing a workers’ compensation claim in that jurisdiction. For questions about filing a mesothelioma injury lawsuit in Boston, you should speak with an experienced attorney as soon as possible.

In this case, the workers’ compensation commission actually held that, because he had not filed the claim within the appropriate period of time, there was no remedy for this claimant, and his claim was dismissed. The claimant appealed again until the case was a heard by the state supreme court. While the court could not agree, and it was a split decision, it was determined the claim should be rejected, because it was not filed timely. As part of the justification for rejecting the claim, the court concluded that other claimants were able to discover they had mesothelioma in less than 25 years, so the system works.

If you or a loved one is diagnosed with mesothelioma in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at 1-888-367-2900.

Additional resources:

Worker who got mesothelioma 40 years after job caught in comp catch-22, November 16, 2015, Business Insurance, by Sheena Harrison

More Blog Entries:

Mesothelioma Lawsuits for Shipyard Workers, July 30, 2014, Boston Mesothelioma Lawyers Blog