When someone is exposed to asbestos and inhales fibers, it normally takes between 20 and 50 years for the fibers to lead to malignant mesothelioma. Patients typically do not realize they are sick until they develop symptoms. Symptoms can include abdominal pain, shortness of breath, and chest pain. Once a patient develops these or other symptoms of mesothelioma and sees his or her doctor, they often learn the disease is in an advanced stage. Life expectancy is significantly reduced upon diagnoses of mesothelioma.
However, a recent news article from the Kansas City Star discusses a new kind of asbestos class action lawsuit pending in a court in Missouri. In 1983, the county started renovating the historic courthouse. Witnesses describe an extreme amount of dust covering the courthouse during the renovations while workers were still there full-time during the process. There were reports of dust being tracked across the floor by workers’ boots. Some reports told of dust shooting in through air vents as renovation workers cut asbestos insulation away from pipes without turning off the ventilation system.
One courthouse worker who was present during the renovation developed malignant mesothelioma and died in 2010 at age 56. After her death, her family received a $10.4 million settlement from the county.
What makes this new lawsuit different from other suits is plaintiffs have a filed a class action lawsuit asking for money for routine medical screenings, even if they have no symptoms of malignant mesothelioma, in a hope to catch the disease early. The basis for this lawsuit is a 2007 state court decision, which allows plaintiffs who have been exposed to toxic chemicals and other hazardous materials to be awarded money for preventative healthcare, including chest x-rays.
In this case, plaintiffs have demanded approximately $40 million to start a medical monitoring fund for the benefit of courthouse workers, jurors, and anyone else exposed to deadly asbestos fibers during the renovation process.
As our Boston mesothelioma lawyers can explain, one of the reasons this class action is so different from traditional asbestos class action lawsuits deals with establishing a level of damages. In malignant mesothelioma cases, there is generally no question that asbestos caused a serious personal injury or death. The most difficult part of a plaintiff’s asbestos lawsuit is often proving which defendant was actually responsible for the asbestos exposure.
In this suit, there are no detectable physical damages yet, as the workers have not been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, and some of them may never get sick. However, they are under the constant fear of developing mesothelioma, and the earlier it is detected, the better it will be for plaintiffs.
In addition to the medical monitoring fund, plaintiffs are also demanding an unspecified amount in punitive damages. Punitive damages are designed to punish defendants for engaging in conduct that is extreme and outrageous and shows a complete disregard for the safety of others. In this case, the complete lack of protection for workers during the renovation could be an example of conduct substantial enough for a punitive damages award.
If you or a loved one is diagnosed with mesothelioma in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at 1-888-367-2900.
Asbestos lawsuit over Jackson County Courthouse seeks millions , March 28, 2015, Kansas City Star
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Asbestos Illegally Dumped at Nature Preserve, August 15, 2014, Boston Mesothelioma Lawyers Blog