Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Mesothelioma Class Actions


W.R. Grace owned the asbestos mine in Libby, Montana. It produced vermiculite that was tainted with tremolite asbestos from the same mines. Not only did the processing mill release as much as 5,000 pounds of asbestos per day in to the air where it would drift down onto the community below, it flew off from the truckloads & railcars as they moved the product to buyers’ sites in Canada & the U.S. Asbestos was incorporated in to products used in homes & gardens, & even in to animal feed.

Lawyers filed the first Burel v Fibreboard action in 1969. These lawyers continued to appeal the case until it reached the Supreme Court in 1973, which ruled that companies had the duties to warn consumers of any dangers their products posed & to assume product liability. Ultimately this decision led to asbestos product labeling & consumer safety warnings.

In 1995 a U.K. woman, June Hancock sued nearby asbestos manufacturer J.W. Roberts & its parent company Turner & Newall for damages after being diagnosed with mesothelioma. Hancock never worked in the factory. , he lived near it, played on the factory property as a infant, & attended the school across the road from the factory. Although her most intense exposure was during her childhood, in the 1930s when he & her friends played with the asbestos dust, the particles were easily observed to drift out the factory windows & blow throughout her community. Her mother’s death from mesothelioma in 1982 was hard for her to deal with, but when he was diagnosed with it herself in 1993 he decided to pursue her precedent-setting case. He was the first to file a claim for damages as a community member, not a former employee, & not a household member of an employee. Her landmark case opened the way for others who, like her, had their lives & health destroyed by the negligence of corporate-think.

What was notable about this case is that lawyers handled it as one of the first asbestos & mesothelioma cases tried as a criminal case. The EPA did an inquiry & found that Grace had covered up facts & knowledge about the hazardous exposure & destroy its workers & the community were incurring. Charges included obstruction of justice, fraud & violation of the Tidy Air Act.

Companies that presented themselves as community servants in these cases are increasingly being exposed for their deceptive manipulations of employees for the primary purpose of gaining a profit. These manipulations resulted in preventing employees from knowing how much danger they were exposing themselves & their families to. & plenty of people are suffering & dying because of their deceit.

A 1997 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, Amchem Products Inc. v George Windsor which overturned a lower court ruling that would have allowed defendants in asbestos & mesothelioma cases to limit their liability, to future claimants, companies like J.W. Roberts & Turner & Newall were again blamed for their negligence. Claimants retained their right to hire their own lawyers & sue for individual claims.

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