Arkansas (AR) Asbestos Information:
In a news story on MARKET WIRE, asbestos litigator Nick Johnson expressed concern that asbestos exposure is still a major concern for Arkansas residents, despite numerous government regulations.
“What many people don’t realize is that we don’t have an actual ban on asbestos,” Johnson stated. “Asbestos still exists in thousands of products today. While OSHA regulates most affected businesses, it’s the do-it-yourselfer and the smaller establishments that really need to be forewarned.”
While a bill passed by the U.S. Senate in the fall of 2007 will ban all manufacture, distribution and use of asbestos by 2010 (pending approval of the House), the fact is that asbestos will continue to be a problem for decades – and Arkansas is no exception.
Where the Asbestos Is
Although occurring naturally in only two locations, both in the western part of the state in the Hot Springs and Russellville areas, power and electric plants and oil company facilities are common throughout Arkansas: ten power generating stations and three oil facilities have been identified as industries in which workers suffered asbestos exposure. These industries were located primarily in Fayetteville, Jonesboro, Little Rock and Pine Bluff.
The Arkansas Historic Preservation Program notes that asbestos siding was a popular choice among homeowners, not only due to its fireproof properties, but because it also did not require expensive and time-consuming paint jobs. This asbestos siding came in numerous styles, including a “raked cedar” look that was imitative of wood materials. Additionally, asbestos was used in all the usual places: pipes, roofing, insulation, etc.
Asbestos continues to be a problem in Arkansas buildings. In October of 2007, a local newspaper reported a story of two buildings set for demolition in the town of Lowell in which asbestos was discovered just before work was to begin. Over 700 square feet of asbestos-containing material was found in the floor tile and mastic installed in offices and restrooms.
The city, which purchased the buildings, will get off fairly inexpensively, however; abatement costs were estimated at just under $3,000.
Arkansas Construction Industry Rules
Removal of asbestos-containing material (ACM) is regulated by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ), under the state Pollution Control and Ecology Commission Regulation 21 on asbestos abatement. The text of the regulation, which was instituted on 30 May 1997, is 66 pages long. The essence of this regulation, however, is simply to bring Arkansas state law into compliance with definitions, safety rules and disposal regulations established by the Environmental Protection Agency. It also establishes licensing requirements for asbestos abatement contractors.
The Department of Pollution Control and Ecology is the licensing authority for asbestos abatement contractors; penalties for hiring unlicensed and/or untrained workers for asbestos abatement are severe.
Asbestos Fatalities in Arkansas
Over 60 counties in Arkansas reported at least one fatality due to mesothelioma or other asbestos disease between 1979 and 1999. The statewide total was 276; interestingly, well over half of these were due to the rare asbestos cancer mesothelioma, despite the fact that asbestosis is medically far more common. Pulaski County (county seat: Little Rock) topped the list, with 19 asbestosis and 25 mesothelioma-related deaths reported during that period; Sevier County (county seat: DeQueen) had one patient death from asbestosis.
Arkansas (AR) Mesothelioma Lawyer & Legal Resources:
Arkansas mesothelioma lawsuits are historically pro-victim when the individual goes through the proper channels, which includes filing claims with the Workers’ Compensation Commission within three years of discovery of the disease. However, when this statute of limitations has run out, there is little compensation. Additionally, it is rare for class action lawsuits to be approved to go forward in the state of Arkansas, so victims must generally file individual lawsuits to obtain compensation for their damages. In all cases, however, if you have been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma or another form of asbestos disease, it is important that you speak to an Arkansas mesothelioma lawyer as soon as possible to ensure that all of your rights are protected.
The statute of limitations for personal injury law in Arkansas is three years, with a discovery rule that states that this amount of time begins when the problem (in this case the mesothelioma) either was discovered or should have been discovered. There is no specific statute about asbestos in Arkansas; however, this statute of limitations has been upheld in asbestos-related cases. For example, in Chambers v. International Paper Company, which went through several rounds of appeals and was completed in 1997, the court upheld a ruling by the Workers’ Compensation Commission that the plaintiff’s asbestosis claim, filed more than three years after his retirement on permanent disability due to other causes, was barred by the three-year statute of limitations applicable to asbestosis and silicosis claims.
As indicated by support of the Chambers ruling, those individuals who wish to sue for workers’ compensation on asbestos-related claims in Arkansas must go through the Workers Compensation Commission (WCC). This fact was further emphasized by the Arkansas State Supreme Court ruling of 2006, which allowed an Arkansas multiple-plaintiff asbesto lawsuit to proceed after it had been dismissed by a lower court. The dismissal was due to the ruling that the claims weren’t covered by the Arkansas’ Workers Compensation Act; the State Supreme Court found that it is up to the WCC to make that determination. Therefore Arkansas mesothelioma victims in should work with the WCC when filing court cases.
It is important to note that although class action lawsuits by mesothelioma victims are possible in Arkansas, previous decisions made by the Arkansas courts may make them difficult to pursue. For example, in 1999, the Arkansas Supreme Court affirmed a lower court’s denial of class action litigation rights in the case of Baker v. Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories Division. In this case, which involved diet drugs rather thanasbestos exposure, it was determined that the individual differences experienced by the people in the case prevented them from coming together in a class action lawsuit. These differences included:
- the plaintiffs had different medical conditions and family histories at the time the drugs were prescribed
- the drugs were prescribed by different doctors who had different degrees of knowledge regarding the risks posed by the drugs
- the doctors told the plaintiffs different things about the risks
- the plaintiffs had different levels of knowledge, which they obtained from outside sources, about the risks
- the plaintiffs took different combinations of the three different diet drugs
- the plaintiffs took the drugs for different durations
- some plaintiffs had no physical injuries, while others had physical injuries but of different degrees and types
- the plaintiffs had different damages in that some wanted medical monitoring while others requested traditional damages such as medical expenses, pain and suffering
Baker v. Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories Division was referenced by the Arkansas Supreme Court in a 2000 case, also unrelated to asbestos, in which the court said that the Baker case ruling gave broad discretion to trial courts in determining whether or not class actions should be allowed.