A month after being diagnosed with the asbestos cancer mesothelioma, a former pipefitter and welder has filed suit against 36 companies, charging that he was wrongfully exposed to the deadly mineral on the job.
Tommy J. Harrell, who was diagnosed with mesothelioma on July 30, filed suit in a Texas Court on Monday, August 31. The suit claims that he had worked with, and been exposed to, asbestos since he began working in 1957. Asbestos, which was used throughout the twentieth century as a building material and insulator, was known for its strength, durability, and resistance to heat, fire, and electricity. It was banned by the EPA in 1989 because of its carcinogenic nature, but a 1991 ruling allowed manufacturers to continue using it in trace amounts under strict regulation.
Harnell claims he was unaware of the dangers of the substance, and that no safety plan had been instituted to protect him from breathing in the microscopic fibers. When inhaled, these fibers, which can be curly in shape or long and needlelike, become lodged in the mesothelium, a protective membrane that lines the chest cavity and allows the lungs to expand and contract. This makes breathing difficult, and can lead to mesothelioma and other lung diseases.
The suit states that Harnell suffers from physical pain and mental anguish stemming from the disease. Harnell’s wife, Linda, also claims that she has suffered the loss of Harnell’s ability to support the family. The suit seeks damages for lost wages, medical costs, and other expenses.
Once diagnosed with mesothelioma, patients typically live 12 to 18 months. Although there is no cure for mesothelioma, palliative treatment, designed to comfort the patient and relieve painful symptoms, is available, most commonly in the form of chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
Among the defendants named in the suit are Afton Pumps, Amerflex Rubber and Gasket, Ametek, BWIP, CBS, Certainteed, FMC, Foster Wheeler Energy, Georgia Pacific, Goodyear Tire and Rubber, Goulds Pumps, Ingersoll Rand, J-M Manufacturing, J. Graves Insulation, John Crane, Lamons Gasket, Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing, Pfizer, Rapid-American, Standco Industries, Triplex, Union Carbide, Viacom, Yarway and Zurn Industries.