South Dakota Mesothelioma Lawyers

South Dakota (SD) Asbestos Information:

South Dakota’s primary claim to fame – aside from the abundance of historical figures, prominent politicians and popular celebrities who call this state home – is Mount Rushmore.

Just south of Mount Rushmore is Custer State Park, which is also the area in which three of South Dakota’s naturally-occurring asbestos deposits are found. Two of these consist of fibrous amphiboles–the deadly, spear-like fibers that literally burrow through lung tissues from the inside out when inhaled. A third amphibole deposit is located near Jewell Cave National Monument; directly north of this are some additional serpentine deposits. Serpentine is a source of chrysotile asbestos, which made up about 95% of all asbestos used in the U.S.

The Facts and Figures

South Dakota has one of the lowest population densities in the U.S.; as of 2005, there are still fewer than 800,000 people living in an area of over 77,000 square miles. (For comparison, New York City alone has ten times this population, living in less than 0.5% of this area).

Correspondingly, the death rate from asbestos disease is low; over a 20-year period between 1979 and 1999, there were only 63 victims of asbestos-related illness, all but 7 of whom succumbed to a form of asbestos cancer known as mesothelioma, despite the fact that asbestosis is far more common than mesothelioma.

The reason for this is that asbestosis is not necessarily immediately fatal. Although incurable and irreversible, asbestosis is not progressive; if asbestosis is caught in its early stages and the patient avoids further asbestos exposure (as well as tobacco and other air pollutants), the progress of the disease can often be stopped. With proper treatment such patients can live a normal life, depending on how much damage the disease has done to the patient’s respiratory system.

Because malignant mesothelioma is difficult to diagnose, it is rarely caught in the early stages. An aggressive and highly malignant form of cancer, mesothelioma, the most common form of which is pleural mesothelioma, usually kills the patient within months of diagnosis, although some rare victims have survived as long as years with the disease.

The Industries

South Dakota is overwhelmingly rural, with an economic base rooted in agriculture. Asbestos poisoning, when it occurred, was usually related to machine shops and mechanical repair facilities, older buildings with asbestos-containing materials, and power generation facilities.

Asbestos has been used in many industries in which there is fire danger. Fires have always been a hazard of running internal combustion engines, so asbestos components have generally been installed in many vehicles. Auto parts that are subject to friction, such as clutches and brakes (where temperatures can go as high as 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit) are of particular concern. To the present day, asbestos is commonly used in the manufacture of brake linings.

The Danger of Power Plants

South Dakota has a number of power plants, three of which are hydroelectric. Although hydroelectric power stations are cleaner than their coal-burning counterparts and don’t normally involve burning carbon-based fuel, asbestos exposure can still be a hazard. Turbines and generators have been known to have asbestos insulation inside them, as amphibole varieties of asbestos (amosite and crocidolite, also known as “brown” and “blue” asbestos respectively) are also valuable as electric insulators.

As this machinery gets older and the asbestos insulation inside begins to deteriorate, friable (loose) asbestos fibers are released into the air. For this reason, utility workers whose jobs involve the maintenance and repair of such facilities have a substantially higher risk of contracting asbestos disease.

Construction Trades

Prior to 1980, asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) were found in a range of building products. One of the most dangerous was an insulation product of the W.R. Grace corporation, known as Zonolite. This consisted primarily of vermiculite, which by itself is a relatively harmless form of clay. However, the product manufactured by W.R. Grace & Company was frequently contaminated with tremolite, another form of amphibole asbestos; this substance may still be present in millions of homes across the nation.

South Dakota (SD) Mesothelioma Lawyer & Legal Resources:

A search through the South Dakota Federal District Court Cases for asbestos-related personal injury product liability lawsuits brings up no recent mesothelioma lawsuits. South Dakota is ranked 50 in the U.S. for mesothelioma cases. With a mesothelioma mortality rate of 6.98 per million, South Dakota has a crude mortality rank of 47 in the country. However, this does not mean that asbestos is not a concern in the state. It is estimated that at least 61 people have died in South Dakota of asbestos-related causes since 1979, and 39 people have sought justice for asbestos-related issues in the state.

As in other states, building demolitions and renovations are a common occurrence throughout the state, and many of these buildings contain asbestos. The South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources reports that they have many complaints regarding improper asbestos removal; the department says they believe this indicates that some local building officials are unaware of the health and safety requirements that must be followed tearing down or renovating buildings. South Dakota has adopted asbestos emission standards from the Federal National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP). Before beginning any demolition or renovation, the state requires the facility or area where the work is to take place to be thoroughly checked by a qualified inspector for the presence of asbestos. In addition, state law requires that any building owner/operator who asks for bids shall, as part of the bid document, specify whether the project involves asbestos-containing materials including type, location, and quantity if asbestos is present. If regulated asbestos-containing materials are found, they must be removed from the site before any activities are carried out that would break up or disturb the materials or prevent access to them for subsequent removal. The state also has notification requirements that vary with the amount of regulated asbestos and type of activity taking place.

In a 1998 case heard by the South Dakota Supreme Court, a small business owner claimed negligent infliction of emotional distress when a bank foreclosed on his business property loans. In explaining its reasoning in denying the claim, the court referred to a U.S. Supreme Court case involving a worker who had been exposed to asbestos. The U.S. Supreme Court had ruled that in cases where negligent infliction is claimed, physical symptoms must be present; in other words, that unless the plaintiff exhibited symptoms of asbestos-related disease, the emotional distress of asbestos exposure could not be claimed. The South Dakota Supreme Court ruled that since the business owner displayed no physical symptoms of injury due to the bank’s actions, the lower court’s decision to deny the plaintiff’s claim was appropriate. This decision has impact on asbestos cases in the state, in that it may make it difficult for people who have been exposed to asbestos but who have not yet been diagnosed with asbestosis, mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases to sue for cancer fears and related emotional distress.

Those interested in filing lawsuits should know that the statute of limitations for personal injury law in South Dakota 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, so it is important that a person diagnosed with an asbestos disease or cancer contact a South Dakota mesothelioma lawyer as soon as possible. Wrongful death cases follow the same statute of limitations and discovery rule, and there is no specific statute about asbestos in South Dakota.