Asbestos has been involved in litigation for several decades. It is a naturally-occurring mineral fiber that occurs in rock and soil and has been used in the construction of buildings and homes due to its strength and heat resistance. For many years, asbestos was considered a miracle product and used widely in many buildings and products. Its origins date back to the Ancient Greeks and came to widespread use during the Industrial Revolution of the 1800s. At the beginning of the twentieth century, researchers noticed large numbers of deaths from men at an unnaturally young age. The first diagnosis of asbestosis (scarring of the lungs) was in 1924 and by the 1930s a link was found between the use and exposure to asbestos and cancer. It continued to be used widely in the United States in the later part of the twentieth century until the Environmental Protection Agency began regulating its use. Now, it has been regulated almost out of existence with the exception of highly regulated, narrow circumstances.
It is estimated that almost a million people that have been exposed to asbestos brought claims totaling around $70 billion in litigation. Asbestos has been linked to a number of health problems including the aforementioned asbestosis, mesothelioma (a cancer of the lungs), and cancer of other bodily linings including the peritoneum and pericardium. Asbestos is not currently used in consumer products but it can still be around in older buildings. Many workers may be currently exposed to asbestos because their building is old enough and the removal of the asbestos may be expensive and increase exposure. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, check your workplace as a potential place of exposure.
Removal of asbestos is expensive. There are no federal regulations governing the licensing of asbestos professionals so it is best to check with local state laws. In Illinois, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency licenses asbestos professionals. The Illinois Department of Public Health can provide a list of inspectors. In most instances, removal causes a greater risk so an inspector can determine whether removal is necessary. In a home, asbestos is likely to be in built-in appliances, around boilers, heaters, piping, flooring, and insulation.
Asbestos litigation is the longest-running tort in American history. Many asbestos companies went bankrupt from the volume of claims. The federal government has tried to streamline the litigation claims by trying to create a fund but these efforts never passed due to concerns about injured parties receiving adequate compensation. Current litigation trends suggest that as of 2011 there is no slowing down of claims and the dollar amount is increasing. Courts are also dismissing these claims at a lower rate than before. Researchers estimate over 200,000 new claims in 2012.
This article is for general informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice. Do not rely on the above information as all cases are different and different laws apply to different cases.
Consult an attorney in your area for further guidance. If you were injured by asbestos exposure call one of our attorneys at David K. Kremin & Associates, and we will give you a free consultation. We never charge unless we collect for you. Please call 1(800) ASK-A-LAWYER or 1(800)275-2529.