MESOTHELIOMA is a rare cancer, where malignant cells grow in the mesothelium, the membrane that forms the lining of several body cavities, including the thoracal cavity, the abdominal cavity, and the heart sac (pericardium). In more than 90% of mesothelioma cases, the cancer develops as a result of a person’s exposure to asbestos. The cancer cells divide and become abnormal, eventually spreading to other organs.
WHAT IS ASBESTOS?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring fiber, which was once thought to be a “miracle mineral.” Asbestos, which has been mined for hundreds of years, includes six minerals: chrysotile, amosite, crocidolite, tremolite, anthophyllite and actinolite. The word “asbestos” comes from a Greek adjective that means “inextinguishable.”
In the nineteenth century, asbestos became extremely popular in manufacturing and building. The material was flame retardant and absorbed heat. It was used for electric wiring insulation, and was very often mixed with cement or woven into fabric or mats.
Asbestos is now known to be highly toxic. In 1906, the first death related to asbestos was recorded. In the early 20th century, scientific research noticed a trend of a large number of deaths and serious lung problems in various asbestos mining towns.
ASBESTOS RELATED DISEASES
Serious diseases related to asbestos include asbestosis, restrictive lung disease, lung cancer, gastrointestinal cancers and mesothelioma. Other diseases include asbestos warts, pleural plaques, and diffuse pleural thickening.
Mesothelioma was once thought to be very rare, but is increasingly becoming more prevalent as people exposed to asbestos get older. There is a latency period of 15-50 years for developing mesothelioma after exposure to asbestos.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has estimated that by the year 2020, there will be hundred of thousands more cases of mesothelioma diagnosed.
WHO ARE THE PLAINTIFFS IN ASBESTOS RELATED CASES?
More than 20 million workers have had asbestos exposure in their place of work in the past 50 years. These plaintiffs include refinery and power plant workers, those working at construction sites where fireproofing sprays and drywall products existed or presently exist.
Anybody exposed to Asbestos could become a potential plaintiff, including textile workers (asbestos was woven into gloves and clothing), automobile production workers and mechanics, electricians, shipyard workers, and demolition workers. Essentially all trades of construction workers are at some risk to asbestos exposure. Airborne asbestos is invisible to the naked eye, although sometimes appear in a cloud of dust. Usually when workers could see this cloud, they were at dangerous levels of exposure. Once inhaled, the fibers remain in the body forever.
BOREL v. FIBREBOARD CORPORATION
Borel v. Fibreboard Paper Products Corporation was the first case in the United States that recognized the manufacturer’s duty to warn of asbestos dangers. On September 10, 1973, Judge John Minor Wisdom issued the court’s opinion for Borel v. Fibreboard for the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. This opinion held asbestos product manufacturers strictly liable for diseases caused by insulation materials.
Between 1973 and 1974, more than 16 thousand asbestos-related cases were filed in the United States. Asbestos very quickly became the largest area of litigation related to product liability.
FINDING A MESOTHELIOMA ATTORNEY
Since it can take as long as forty years after the original exposure to asbestos for mesothelioma to develop, it is important to know if you are at risk for this cancer and to be tested. Anyone who has been or thinks they have been exposed to asbestos should speak with their medical practitioner about their exposure and be tested for mesothelioma. If the medical practitioner believes there is a problem, an oncologist should be seen as soon as possible for a definitive diagnosis. As with other cancers, mesothelioma is not necessarily a death sentence. There are many treatments available. An oncologist will best be able to explain those treatments to those who have mesothelioma.
If you or somebody you know has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, it is time to contact an experienced, aggressive attorney who has prior experience obtaining verdicts and settlements on behalf of mesothelioma victims. Contact your local bar association for a referral. Mesothelioma attorneys often take their cases on a contingency basis. This simply means the attorney will not have to be paid upfront; the legal fees are taken out of the settlement. If the mesothelioma attorney does not win the case, the client does not pay anything. Those who have mesothelioma may be able to file a lawsuit against the company responsible for the asbestos exposure. Millions of dollars have already been paid to many mesothelioma patients for doctor’s bills, lost wages as well a punitive damages. These court cases may take several years to conclude and for those with mesothelioma to get any type of settlement. Should the mesothelioma patient pass away before (and after) a settlement is reached, in some cases, their survivors may be entitled to the compensation for the court case.
Seeing that mesothelioma can take years to develop, if there is a chance of exposure, action must be taken to protect yourself and your family, both medically and financially. Get a definitive diagnosis as quickly as possible and then contact a mesothelioma attorney. Unlike many other cancers, mesothelioma is caused by negligent companies who exposed their employees and clients to asbestos.
Note: Every case is different and deserves personal attention. Liability in asbestos cases includes negligence, strict liability, breach of warranty, and failure to warn. Contact an aggressive asbestos attorney or mesothelioma attorney for more information and a case consultation.