Lung Cancer, Asbestos and Tobacco: Understanding Your Rights

The majority of those filing asbestos lawsuits in Massachusetts are people who worked in industries where they were exposed to the dangerous fibers in the course of carrying out their daily duties.
These individuals suffered from what we call occupational exposure. There are other forms of exposure of course, including second-hand, usually stemming from relatives who returned home each day with the material on their clothing.

Yet even for those diagnosed with mesothelioma, in which the only known cause is exposure to asbestos, these cases can be complex. It requires delving back many years into a person’s work history and daily routines. It requires testimony from colleagues and supervisors from decades ago. It requires an extensive analysis of medical records and evaluations. To top it off, most of these cases are fast-tracked, due to the rapid deterioration of patients’ health following diagnosis.

A case could be further complicated if the individual seeking compensation is or was a tobacco smoker. And it could be further complicated if that smoker or former smoker hasn’t been diagnosed with mesothelioma or asbestosis, but rather lung cancer, which is also known to be caused by smoking.

Notice we said “complicated,” and not “impossible.” Asbestos causes lung cancer too, and liability of asbestos defendants isn’t lifted simply because a plaintiff chose to smoke.

In fact, legal analysts are noting that more and more, asbestos trusts are paying out claims to smokers and former smokers with lung cancer. What they have to show is strong medical indications of asbestos-related damages to the lungs, as well as an occupational history related to the trust at hand.

Lung cancer asbestos claims were first filed back in the 1980s and 1990s. While it’s true that some claims were probably bogus (gimmicks in which attorneys would park “lung cancer screening vans” outside of union halls were later found to have produced inaccurate results), the fact is, many of these claims were and are absolutely legitimate. A person who has smoked should never feel as if they forfeited their right to sue for compensation against manufacturers who actively sought to conceal the dangers of asbestos exposure from their products.

One such high-profile case was recently filed by nine-term Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy, a long-time smoker who recently took a leave of absence from her post while she battles lung cancer. In her complaint, which names some 75 defendants, she contends that she was exposed to the deadly fibers after her father and brother would return home from work every day covered in it. She unwittingly breathed in those fibers every time she got in the car with them, every time she washed their clothes, every time she gave them a tight hug upon their return from work.

Not only did her father and brother die relatively young, but it’s possible she might as well, even though she hasn’t been diagnosed with the terminal disease of mesothelioma.

There is also nothing to say that she couldn’t develop mesothelioma later on. Because tort claims in Massachusetts have a statutory deadline of three years from the time the injury is discovered, it’s imperative that those with a history of asbestos exposure and a recent lung cancer diagnosis seek prompt legal advise. Otherwise, by the time a mesothelioma diagnosis is handed down, it could be too late to seek compensation.

If you or a loved one is diagnosed with mesothelioma, call for a free and confidential appointment at (617) 777-7777.

Additional Resources:
Professor says asbestos cases from smokers, like N.Y. congresswoman, on the rise, Jan. 22, 2014, By Heather Isringhausen Gvillo, Legal Newsline Legal Journal
More Blog Entries:
Lawmakers Try to Limit the Rights of Asbestos Victims, Dec. 7, 2013, Boston Mesothelioma Lawyer Blog

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