Washington D.C. (DC) Asbestos Information:
A recent report from the Government Accountability Office revealed that a number of low-paid maintenance workers who service HVAC and water lines underneath the buildings of Capitol Hill have been breathing asbestos fibers for years – and highly paid members of Congress took little, if any notice until Illinois senator Dick Durbin finally brought the issue out into the open in December of 2006.
This is the most notorious example of asbestos exposure in recent months, but it is by no means the only one. The District of Columbia has a mesothelioma mortality rate of more than 11 per million, or .0011%, and ranks 30th in terms of overall asbestos mortality.
The Hellhole Beneath Capitol Hill
In addition to 150-degree (Fahrenheit) heat, arsenic fumes and chunks of falling concrete from aging and deteriorating walls, the maintenance workers who have been responsible for the repair and maintenance of the HVAC and plumbing for federal buildings have been regularly exposed to large amounts of friable asbestos fibers. According to some reports, Capitol police have refused to patrol there because of the conditions.
Meanwhile, Congress exempted these employees from the same worker rights and protections granted to workers in almost all other industries.
These workers report to the Architect of the Capitol, a department which is “…responsible to the United States Congress for the maintenance, operation, development, and preservation of the United States Capitol Complex, which includes the Capitol, the congressional office buildings, the Library of Congress buildings, the Supreme Court building, the U.S. Botanic Garden, the Capitol Power Plant, and other facilities.” The responsibility to provide a safe work environment for its employees is apparently not a high priority.
It was only when these workers appealed directly to Congress and the media (while the Architect used intimidation and harassment to silence them) that the senator from Illinois stood up and acknowledged that he and his colleagues had “…a responsibility to these [tunnel] workers and a responsibility to this nation to set a good example when it comes to worker safety.”
While these workers may have finally won their battle, it is too late for most of them; recent medical examinations indicated that most had “the lungs of old men”.
The Washington Navy Yard
Despite its name, the Washington Navy Yard hasn’t actually built any ships since the War of 1812; at that time, it became a facility for the manufacture of guns and munitions.
Cutting edge technology has always been used at The Washington Navy Yard; it was not only the first manufacturing operation to employ the steam engine in the early 19th century, it was also the first in which computers were used to solve differential equations required for engineering in 1954.
The Yard – officially designated as the U.S. Naval Gun Factory in 1945 – ceased operations in 1961 and was converted to office space. Most industrial activities up to that time involved asbestos, and the Washington Navy Yard was no exception; the manufacture of guns and ship fittings involved the use of fire-proofing because of the blast furnaces, steel and iron-casting activities, and numerous flammable substances typically found in factory settings.
Asbestos exposure could also be the result of wearing protective clothing and equipment. Steel and iron workers often wore asbestos gloves, bibs and coveralls, which could release asbestos fibers if ripped open or worn. Welders, carpenters, painters, riggers, pipe fitters, electricians and metal cutters were all employed at the Washington Navy Yard at one time or another, and thus were exposed to asbestos fibers to some degree.
Washington D.C. (DC) Job Sites At Risk From Asbestos Exposure:
Over the course of the last century, hundreds of thousands of workers were exposed to asbestos while on the job – and for the most part, they were not warned. Below is a list of Job sites from Washington D.C. (DC) where workers were potentially and unnecessarily put at risk:
Washington Navy Yard: Washington, DC
Washington D.C. (DC) Asbestos Cancer & Mesothelioma Doctors:
The diagnosis and treatment of asbestos-related cancers and other diseases is gradually becoming a sub-specialty in the field of medicine all its own. However, as of the present time, there is no medical degree that is specific to asbestos-related practice.
Most doctors focusing on asbestos disease today are trained in oncology, thoracic surgery, respiratory or occupational medicine, or some related field.
Washington D.C. (DC) Mesothelioma Lawyer & Legal Resources:
A search through the Washington, D.C., Federal District Court Cases for asbestos-related personal injury product liability lawsuits, such as mesothelioma lawsuits, does not bring up any lawsuits between 2006 and 2007. However, this does not mean that asbestos is not a concern in the region. The District of Columbia is ranked 47 in the U.S. for malignant mesothelioma cases. With a mesothelioma mortality rate of 11.45 per million, the District of Columbia has a crude mortality rank of 30 in the country.
There are two known asbestos-exposed areas in Washington, D.C.: the Government Printing Office, and the Washington Navy Yard. Individuals living or working near these areas should be checked regularly for signs of asbestos cancer such as mesothelioma in order to file any lawsuits within the district’s statute of limitations – something that should be discussed with a Washington DC mesothelioma lawyer as soon as possible. While these sites may have been inspected and cleaned up, anyone who worked or lived in these areas before asbestos contamination was reported can still be affected. Also, it is important to keep in mind that these are only known asbestos sites. Other areas in D.C. may also contain asbestos but may not yet have been reported as such.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court is located in Washington, D.C., there have been a number of key asbestos lawsuits filed and decided in the Washington, D.C., court system. One of these cases was Norfolk & Western Railway Company v. Freeman Ayers, et al in 2002. In this case, emotional distress damages based on fear of contracting disease was called on to be eliminated, since the plaintiffs in this case had successfully sued the company primarily on the grounds that they feared they might get cancer as a result of their asbestos exposure. The defense claimed that the asbestosis which the plaintiffs suffered was mild and required only minimal medical treatment, which seemed to make the million-dollar verdicts in the case unjust. Representatives for the plaintiffs asserted that when the award settlement was determined, the lower court had taken mental suffering as well as the physical effects of the asbestos into consideration. The plaintiffs were ultimately rewarded a reduced award.
Another key case submitted before the Supreme Court was that of Ortiz v. Fibreboard Corp., which involved victims exposed to Fibreboard Corporation’s products. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the class action settlement violated Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The Supreme Court also questioned the fairness of the settlement since it would have allowed Fibreboard to settle all asbestos claims, current and future, with only $500,000 of its own money. The court noted that this would allow the corporation to retain virtually all its net worth at the expense of the victims.
Another asbestos related court case in Washington, D.C., which received a lot of media attention was Amchem Products v. Windsor. In this case, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the decision of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. The appeals court had overturned a nationwide class action settlement of future claims of asbestos-related injury, citing Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and stating that the class members were not adequately represented.
Those interested in filing a mesothelioma lawsuit in Washington DC should know that the statute of limitations for personal injury law in Washington, D.C., is ten 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, and that they should consult with a Washington DC mesothelioma lawyer as soon as possible after they receive a diagnosis. A specific law governing asbestos states that lawsuits concerning injury or death from exposure to asbestos should be launched within one year of the discovery that the injury was caused by asbestos exposure. Statute of limitations on wrongful death cases is also one year in Washington, D.C.