Asbestos Case Beats Statute of Limitations

A federal judge has denied a pump manufacturer’s argument that an asbestos-related lung cancer case should be tossed because it wasn’t filed in time.

As asbestos litigation continues its steady decline and fewer lawsuits against companies for asbestos-related illnesses make it past the early stages of litigation, plaintiff Kathleen Conneen’s case on behalf of her deceased husband, Joseph Conneen, has cleared a significant hurdle.

U.S. District Judge Eduardo C. Robreno of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania denied defendant Goulds Pumps Inc.’s motion for summary judgment based on Pennsylvania’s two-year statute of limitations in asbestos cases, and under maritime law. Joseph Conneen worked in a shipyard.

The primary dispute centers on when Kathleen Conneen’s husband learned his exposure to asbestos could have been a factor in his diagnosis. According to Robreno’s opinion, Joseph Conneen, who filed suit in January 2015, was diagnosed with lung cancer in December of 2012.

Kathleen Conneen argued that her husband did not learn that asbestos exposure was a possible factor until February 2013, while Goulds countered that since Conneen’s husband worked around asbestos for 28 years and never smoked, he should have been more diligent in trying to identify the cause of his cancer.

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Source: Asbestos Case Beats Statute of Limitations


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Asbestos-related cancer won’t be overcome anytime soon, doctors say

New methods are giving doctors a better handle on diagnosing and treating asbestos-related cancers, but no cures are on the horizon.

“I think it would be overly optimistic to say it’s going to be cured. I mean we can always dream,” said oncologist Dr. Christopher Lee, an expert on mesothelioma.

Paul Demers, a senior scientist in prevention at the Occupational Cancer Research Centre in Toronto, said one of the difficulties in diagnosing mesothelioma is the long latency period — the period between exposure and the development of symptoms — which can sometimes be up to 40 years.

When asbestos fibres are inhaled or ingested, they become trapped in the pleural lining of the lungs. Over time, thousands of tiny fibres cause scarring in the tissue.

New equipment like the CyTOF instrument allows doctors to detect asbestos earlier and with more precision, which could facilitate more effective treatments for asbestos victims.

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Source: Asbestos-related cancer won’t be overcome anytime soon, doctors say

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Deadly Remnants of Asbestos in Italy (photos slideshow)

Although Italy joined asbestos-producing nations in banning the carcinogenic material at the end of the 20th century, thousands of people working in factories and living in public housing had already been exposed. In other words, as the Italian photographer Cinzia Canneri explained, the damage had been done by the 1980s.

Ms. Canneri said it could take up to 30 years after exposure for diseases like asbestosis or mesothelioma to develop. As a result, large numbers of people in the last decade have begun to suffer in Italy and more are expected to — with few legal or medical protections.

“They have not been recognized as victims,” Ms. Canneri said through an interpreter. “They want to speak and be heard.

”To help them, Ms. Canneri spent the last two years closely following asbestos victims, documenting their daily lives and struggles as they deal with new diseases, mourn deceased family members, visit doctors and contemplate whether or not time is running out on their health.

[Article continues at original source]

Source: Deadly Remnants of Asbestos in Italy (photos slideshow)

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Asbestos-related cancer costs Canadians billions

A first-ever estimate of the toll of asbestos-related cancers on society pegs the cost of new cases at $1.7-billion per year in Canada, and notes that is likely an under-estimate.

The economic burden of lung cancer and mesothelioma from work-related asbestos exposure in Canada amounts to an average of $818,000 per case, according to a team led by health economist and senior scientist Dr. Emile Tompa at the Institute for Work & Health, a research organization, whose calculation includes costs related to health care and lost productivity and quality of life.

This is the first time a tally of these costs has been made public. Asbestos remains the top cause of occupational deaths in Canada: Workers’ compensation boards have accepted more than 5,700 claims since 1996. About 150,000 Canadian workers are exposed to asbestos in their workplaces, the research project Carex Canada estimates, among them construction workers and contractors, mechanics, shipbuilders and engineers. This country continues to allow exports and imports of asbestos, which rose to a six-year high last year. Dozens of other countries, including Australia and Britain, have banned it.

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Source: Asbestos-related cancer costs Canadians billions

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Commentary: Firefighters and teachers bear outsize burden of asbestos deaths

Asbestos does not discriminate.

It doesn’t matter who you are – young or old, strong or frail, rich or poor, factory worker or CEO – if you inhale or ingest even one microscopic asbestos fiber, you’re at increased risk of developing a deadly disease whose symptoms may not show up for decades.

But of the estimated 12,000 to 15,000 Americans who die of asbestos-related diseases each year, some groups do bear a disproportionate burden. The death rate is highest for workers in industries in which asbestos is or was extensively used, such as construction, shipbuilding, chemicals and railroads. But while each asbestos death is tragic, the tragedy feels most horrifying and unfair when it strikes those who were exposed through their unselfish service to society. Among those more likely than the average American to die from asbestos exposure are two such groups – one that willingly put themselves in harm’s way, another that may have never known they were at risk: firefighters and teachers.

[Article continues at original source]

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Asbestos-Related Lung Cancer Cases Where There Is A History Of Smoking By Plaintiff: See How A Defense Law Firm Looks At These Lawsuits

Recently we came across an article written by two attorneys in Miles & Stockbridge’s Products Liability and Mass Torts Practice Group that provided some insights about how defense lawyers might assess asbestos lung cancer lawsuits.

From the Introduction part of this article, “Asbestos, Smoking and Lung Cancer: Valuing the Venue and Verdict” (subscription required), which was published online in November 2014:

In recent years, courts across the country have seen an increase in lung cancer cases based on alleged asbestos exposure. Many of these cases involve plaintiffs with significant histories of smoking tobacco. Despite this common sense alternative causation, courts vary widely on the impact of this factual scenario depending on the jurisdiction’s utilization of comparative or contributory negligence, recognition of a claim of strict liability, and method of apportionment of damages. Consideration of these factors is essential to evaluate the defense of a case and the potential financial impact of an adverse verdict.

The article continues with discussions of asbestos lung cancer cases from these various perspectives:

  • Comparative Fault
  • Contributory Negligence & Strict Liability
  • Apportionment of Damages
  • Reconciling Fault with Damages
  • Consistent Facts with Inconsistent Results
  • Future Implications

My law firm handles asbestos-related lung cancer cases for plaintiffs with a history of smoking when there is also underlying asbestosis or significant pleural disease present, and these cases are filed as lawsuits or bankruptcy claims against the responsible asbestos companies.

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Five Basic Medical Facts About Bronchogenic Carcinoma or Lung Cancer Caused By Asbestos Exposure

For some basic facts about asbestos-related lung cancer, or bronchogenic carcinoma, we will draw upon an article, “Asbestos: When the Dust Settles—An Imaging Review of Asbestos-related Disease”, which was published in the October 2002 edition of RadioGraphic medical journal.

  1. The link between asbestos exposure and lung cancer has been suspected since the 1930s but was proved in the 1950s.

  2. Amphiboles [(one type of asbestos fiber)] are more potent than chrysotile [(another type of asbestos fiber)] in inducing lung cancer (between 10 and 50 times greater potency has been quoted).

  3. The latent period is variable. Some cases occur less than 10 years after exposure, but the risk is increased until at least 30 years later. One report cited a lag of 50 years.

  4. The exact mechanism of carcinogenesis is unclear. Asbestos-related cancers can occur anywhere in the lungs. The evidence regarding a link between asbestos and a particular histologic type or lobar distribution of lung cancer is somewhat contradictory.

  5. The investigation and staging of asbestos-related lung cancers are the same as for non-asbestos-related cancers. The prognosis is similar to that for non-asbestos-related lung cancers, but the restrictive effect of coexistent asbestosis or diffuse pleural thickening could compromise patients’ respiratory function and fitness for attempted resection.

[Footnotes omitted.]

Asbestos lung cancer cases can be filed as lawsuits against the manufacturers of asbestos-containing products used in the past or their respective asbestos bankruptcy trusts.

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The Disturbing Story Of What Asbestos Exposure Has Done To The People Of Ambler, Pennsylvania, In The Past And Up To The Present Time, As Regards Asbestos-Related Diseases

Today’s post is a follow-up to one we wrote back in July 2014, “Penn Medical School Will Study Cluster Of Mesothelioma Cases In Ambler, PA, The Site Of A Long-Closed Asbestos Factory”.

In an October 19, 2014 article,  “Penn study seeks to track Ambler’s asbestos legacy”, reporter Sandy Bauers, of the Philadelphia Inquirer, brings to life the story behind this upcoming medical study and provides the human aspect of this most unfortunate situation.

From that Inquirer news article:

Joe Amento, a lifelong resident of Ambler, was 53 when he died of a rare cancer with one main cause – exposure to asbestos.

He was fine at Christmas 2002. In January, a pain in his side kept him awake at night. He was found to have the disease in March. Before August, he was gone.

He left a wife, two children, and a community that to this day wrestles with the uncertain legacy of the huge asbestos factories that once brought the town jobs and prosperity, then sickness and death.

Amento never worked in the factories. He simply lived nearby. But his father, like many, found a job there as a young Italian immigrant.

Although the last factory closed decades ago, the piles of asbestos waste have remained in what are now two Superfund sites.

Even as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency monitors the completed cleanup at one site, and heavy machinery growls as it progresses at the second, many in the community remain edgy.

Mesothelioma has a 40-year latency period – the time between exposure and sickness. So people who have lived or worked just blocks away wonder: “Am I going to get sick?”

The University of Pennsylvania’s Center of Excellence in Environmental Toxicology has received a $10 million federal grant to seek answers….

And later from that same insightful article:

When the first of Ambler’s factories began making asbestos insulation in 1897, little was known – or later acknowledged – about the harm the tiny fibers could do to the human lungs.

As time passed, the piles of asbestos-containing waste outside the plants grew so high that people dubbed them the white mountains of Ambler. One topped out at 92 feet.

Even in summer, children sledded down the hills on flattened cardboard boxes. The area was a magnet for kids with bikes. Joe Amento was among them, said his brother, Pete.

The two sites total about 55 acres, a big chunk of land in the small, quaint town of Ambler, which was built around the factories as workers moved in.

A municipal park was once built atop the second site. It later was closed.

Even today, playgrounds, backyards, and businesses are less than a block away. That big hill behind the McDonald’s on West Butler Pike near the train station? It’s a dirt-encased pile that contains asbestos.

It seemed every family knew someone who had a lung disease. Joe Amento’s father died of asbestosis….

This in-depth piece of reporting about what has happened, and is still happening, in Ambler, Pennsylvania due to asbestos exposure — both occupational and “environmental”, if you will — is worth your time if you have any interest in the tragedy of asbestos-related diseases.

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Pleural Disease Diagnosis Indicates Signifcant Past Exposure To Asbestos And Means There Is An Increased Risk Of Asbestosis, Lung Cancer, Or Mesothelioma

The commonly encountered asbestos-related conditions and diseases mainly relate to the lungs. These include pleural effusion, pleural plaques, and diffuse pleural thickening — collectively referred to as benign pleural disease — as well as asbestosis, lung cancer, and malignant pleural mesothelioma.

In this post we focus on the several types of pleural disease associated with asbestos exposure. For the basic facts we will draw upon an article, “Asbestos: When the Dust Settles—An Imaging Review of Asbestos-related Disease”, which was published in the October 2002 edition of RadioGraphic medical journal.

As an introduction, while asbestosis, asbestos lung cancer, and mesothelioma may be more well-known asbestos-related medical conditions, pleural disease is the most commonly encountered asbestos-related disease. Pleural disease can occur as pleural effusion, plaques, or thickening, as well as atelectasis.

From the above mentioned RadioGraphic medical journal article:

Pleural Effusion

Benign pleural effusions are thought to be the earliest pleural-based phenomenon (1) (Fig 1)…. They usually occur within 10 years of exposure (12), but they can also develop much later…. The development of effusions is thought to be exposure-dependent (11), but they can occur even after minimal exposure (13) and can be dependent on occupation (11).

Pleural Plaques

The most common manifestation of asbestos exposure is pleural plaques, which are discrete areas of fibrosis that usually arise from the parietal pleura but may arise from visceral pleura. They tend to occur 20–30 years after exposure (1). The classic distribution of plaques seen on chest radiographs is the posterolateral chest wall between the seventh and tenth ribs, lateral chest wall between the sixth and ninth ribs, the dome of the diaphragm (virtually pathognomonic), and the mediastinal pleura (1,14) (Fig 2).

Diffuse Pleural Thickening

Diffuse pleural thickening is less specific for asbestos exposure because other causes of exudative effusions can lead to it. It results from thickening and fibrosis of the visceral pleura, which leads to fusion with the parietal pleura (Fig 7), and is preceded by benign pleural effusion (1) (Fig 8). Histologically, there is similarity between pleural thickening and plaques, except that fusion of the pleural layers is suggestive of more intense inflammation (22).

Round Atelectasis

The pathogenesis of round atelectasis is not certain, but it is thought to be due to an inflammatory reaction and fibrosis in the superficial layer of the pleura. As the fibrous tissue matures, it contracts, causing pleura to fold into the lung, which in turn causes atelectasis (28). Asbestos-related round atelectasis is also known as asbestos pseudotumor or Blesovsky syndrome.

The typical chest radiographic appearance is of a rounded peripheral “mass” with or without lung distortion (Fig 10a). Pleural thickening is usually seen. The CT features are of a round or oval mass that abuts the pleura, a “comet tail” of bronchovascular structures going into the mass, and thickening of the adjacent pleura (1,29) (Figs 10b, 11).

The medical significance of a diagnosis of pleural disease is that it often indicates there has been a significant past exposure to asbestos and, as such, it probably means that there is an increased risk of developing asbestosis, lung cancer, or mesothelioma for that person.

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Mesothelioma / Asbestos Lung Cancer / Asbestosis: The Basic Facts About These Asbestos-Related Diseases

An estimated 2,000-3,000 new cases of malignant mesothelioma are diagnosed each year in the US.

Malignant mesothelioma is most often diagnosed in people over 50; more often in men than women; and, the risk increases with age.

There are 3 types of malignant mesothelioma:

  • Pleural Mesothelioma, which accounts for 75% of cases and starts in the chest cavity
  • Peritoneal Mesothelioma, which accounts for about 10-20% of cases and starts in the abdomen
  • Pericardial Mesothelioma, which is rare and starts in the heart

Workers exposed to asbestos in the past are at risk for developing mesothelioma, asbestos lung cancer, and asbestosis.

Asbestos-related lung cancer occurs inside the lungs.

Asbestosis is not a cancer; rather it is pulmonary fibrosis, or scarring of the lungs, that was caused by years of breathing in asbestos dust and asbestos fibers.

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