2018 brought some advances in treatment and some legal victories for mesothelioma victims and their advocates.
The liability of Johnson & Johnson over asbestos contaminated talcum powder was probably the biggest headline of the year. But our Massachusetts mesothelioma lawyers have noted a number of legal and medical victories this year.
The Johnson & Johnson case illustrates why litigation is a primary threat to these companies. Internal documents, memos, emails and other evidence continue to show defendant companies often ignored or supressed evidence, while marketing their deadly products as safe for use by consumers. In 2016, J & J and other defendants suffered three large verdicts for exposure to its baby powder in St. Louis, Mo.: $72 million, $70 million and $55 million. In 2017, the American Bar Association identified talcum powder liability as a material threat to defendants and the insurance industry.
Many companies have not survived the liability that has resulted from exposing thousands of consumers to asbestos. As our Massachusetts mesothelioma lawyers recently reported, asbestos liability has forced dozens of companies out of business. In such cases, bankruptcy mesothelioma trust funds have often been established to compensate future victims.
Litigation continues to reveal many of these companies knew of the risks for years, but put profits ahead of consumer safety, knowing the resulting mesothelioma would take decades to be diagnosed.
2018 Mesothelioma Headlines
Among the most newsworthy events of 2018:
- Talc Contamination: A damning report by Reuters News Service claimed Johnson & Johnson knew for years its iconic baby powder was contaminated with asbestos but did nothing to warn the public. A New Jersey court ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $80 million in damages to a man who said the talcum powder was responsible for his diagnosis of malignant mesothelioma.
- Dr. David Sugarbaker: Died at age 65. The thoracic surgeon and mesothelioma specialist spent 26 years at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, where he trained a generation of doctors on treating mesothelioma patients.
- The U.S. Geology Survey: Released a new hand-held spectrometer, that identifies asbestos in vermiculite insulation. The fire-retardant and insulating properties of asbestos made common its use in insulation, where it’s often found in old buildings under renovation or demolition.
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Issued new rules that would require EPA approval of asbestos-containing products sold, manufactured, processed or imported into the United States. Many believe asbestos is outlawed and no longer used in the U.S. Neither is strictly true and the EPA rule was protested by anti-asbestos advocates, who argue it does not go far enough in banning use of the deadly cancer-causing mineral.
- Claire’s filed for bankruptcy: Several rounds of laboratory testing found asbestos fibers in cosmetic products the retail chain marketed to young girls.
- Asbestos found in crayons: Crayons from a popular dollar store tested positive for asbestos. Dry erase markers sold on Amazon were also found to contain BTEX, which has been linked to organ and immune system damage.
Mesothelioma Legal Help in Massachusetts
Because mesothelioma has a latency period of 30-40 years, most victims are diagnosed with cancer decades after exposure to asbestos. Thus, determining how and when a victim was exposed, and who is liable, is a primary consideration when naming defendants in a mesothelioma personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit. Because median survival time after diagnosis is only about 18 months, civil lawsuits may transition from a personal injury claim to a wrongful death claim before reaching resolution. In these and other matters, choosing a Massachusetts law firm with extensive experience representing mesothelioma victims will best protect your rights and the financial well-being of your family.
Those most at risk of developing mesothelioma have often endured routine exposure to asbestos at some point during their life, most often as part of their employment — though it should be noted no level of exposure has been deemed safe. Although it is clear that the health risks from asbestos exposure increase with heavier exposure and longer exposure time, investigators have found asbestos-related diseases in individuals with only brief exposures.
Shipbuilding trades, Navy veterans, miners and those employed in construction and building trades between 1940 and 1980 have been identified as being at increased risk. Today, those involved in demolition of older structures also face increased risk. In many cases, improper asbestos removal put both building occupants and construction crews at risk.
Massachusetts, like most other states, follows the Luhrmann Test for causation standards in asbestos litigation, although both Maine and Delaware are New England states that use different standards. Causation standards in Massachusetts were established through a number of court cases, including O’Connor v. Raymark Industries, Inc., 518 N.E.2d 510 (Mass. 1988), and have since been adopted by the state’s highest court. Standards for establishing causation in Massachusetts include:
- Defendant product contained asbestos.
- Victim was exposed to defendant’s product.
- Such exposure was a substantial contributing factor to caused harm.
Massachusetts’ standard is an “any exposure” theory, and requires plaintiff prove it was more likely than not that defendant’s product was a substantial factor in causing harm. This is significant because presence of other defendants, or exposure by other sources (including cigarette smoke), do not negate a defendant’s liability under the law in cases where exposure to defendant’s products are determined to be a substantial factor in causing harm.
The law is not as clear in Maine, as the state’s highest court has not adopted the Luhrmann standard, and in fact a 2013 Maine Superior Court ruling rejected the standard in Campbell v. H.B. Smith Co., Inc. Delaware established a proximate cause standard in Money v. Manville Corp. Asbestos Disease Compen. Trust Fund, 596 A.2d 1372 (Del. 1991), which requires plaintiff to prove injury would not have occurred but for exposure to defendant’s product.
Mesothelioma is a fatal cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Victims are best served by seeking early consultation with a Massachusetts law firm with extensive experience in asbestos litigation.
If you or a loved one is diagnosed with mesothelioma in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at (617) 777-7777.
Asbestos Exposure and Cancer Risk, National Cancer Institute
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Montana Settles Asbestos Claims for $25M, Feb. 19, 2017, Boston Mesothelioma Lawyer Blog