Mesothelioma Trust Fund | Congressional Interest in Asbestos

If you read the last article we posted about asbestos trust funds, you’ll remember the clever hammock analogy used to describe what they are. If you didn’t read it, you can do so here.

Now, the Government Accountability Office (GOA) – a sort of congressional watchdog group that keeps an eye on government spending of taxpayer dollars – has published a report that reveals the somewhat secretive system of asbestos trust fund payouts.

The report looked at 52 asbestos trust funds that have paid out over 3,000,000 claims for a total of about $17.5 billion. The investigation was prompted by the fact that these asbestos trust funds don’t publish details about their activities, yet do make general information available. Attorneys representing asbestos companies or defendants — in asbestos lawsuits filed by mesothelioma victims – raised a stink about the secrecy of the details and implored congress to get involved. The investigation proceeded to determine if, in fact, these asbestos trust funds were keeping details secret.

The investigation revealed only “one trust’s financial report contained claimant names and amounts paid to these individuals.”

The defendants in asbestos lawsuits have been the critics of asbestos trust fund secrecy. They allege that asbestos lawyers and mesothelioma law firms oversee the operation of these asbestos trust funds to prevent them from revealing how much their clients have been paid. This, they further allege, allows some asbestos attorneys to file claims with multiple trusts that could contradict each other.

The GAO report stated that 98% of asbestos trust fund claims go through what is called an expedited review process, which requires a claim form and some documentation that asbestos exposure happened. Perhaps the lawyers representing the asbestos companies want mesothelioma victims to have to go through much more than that to get the compensation they deserve?

According to the report, 65 percent of asbestos trust funds treat claims information as confidential and privileged. Defendants and insurers want the details to be available to them so they can reduce the value of the claims awarded to mesothelioma victims in court.

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with mesothelioma and suspect it’s due to asbestos exposure, contact a mesothelioma attorney at Sokolove Law for a free consultation. Also, write to your local congressman about keeping the details of asbestos trust fund settlements confidential and out of the hands of the asbestos companies.


UK Asbestos Laws Suffering From Loophole that Causes Compensation Denials

A recent report of out of the United Kingdom has found that a loophole in the asbestos laws have led to thousands of workers sickened by asbestos exposure being denied financial compensation by former employers.

One example in the story, which was published by the BBC, outlined the situation of Bob Charman, a 64-year-old former construction worker who was diagnosed with mesothelioma last year.

“We would saw [asbestos] and file it and the dust would fly around… you’d put a hanky round your face like a bandit,” Charman said of his memories being exposed to asbestos on the job. “We didn’t have masks and respirators.”

However, when Charman sought compensation from his employer, he was not able to properly track down and identify the insurance company that the company had coverage with at the time of his employment. As a result, he was not allowed to qualify for any type of insurance compensation.

Tracking down the records needed to prove an insurance company’s association with an employer for compensation case can be difficult at times. Many older employees have lost track of their records in the decades since they worked with an employer, while many companies have also misplaced many of their older records as the result of moves or reorganizations.

The problem was addressed somewhat in 1999 when employees in the UK were required to retain all of their records for 60 years, essentially guaranteeing they would have a record of their employer’s insurer should they ever need to reference it. However, because mesothelioma can develop decades after being exposed to asbestos, many claimants had moved to a new employer by the time the law went into effect.

In the last year the UK government has attempted to have insurance companies establish “funds of last resort” individuals who are not able to trace their claims back to a company’s original insurer, the insurance industry argued that doing so would raise rates and hurt current companies they are currently serving. No UK insurer has yet established it own “fund of last resort,” according to the BBC.

With no adjustment to the technicality, the BBC also reported that only 45 percent of the 15,000 inquiries by claimants looking to successfully locate the proper insurance company was successful in 2009. In such cases, claimants can apply for government funded compensation instead, but the money they often receive noticeably less money than an insurance company would be able to provide.

For those who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma cancer that can be linked to asbestos exposure caused by a product or former employer, financial compensation may be a possibility. To avoid getting caught up in any misunderstandings or loopholes that could deny you the money you deserve, contact an experienced mesothelioma attorney to learn more about your rights.


Woman Awarded $27 Million in Asbestos Lawsuit

A California jury ordered Owens-Illinois to pay $27.3 million to a mesothelioma patient who filed a lawsuit alleging she was exposed to asbestos from the company’s products while washing her ex-husband’s work clothing.

As reported by Law360 (subscription required), plaintiff Rose-Marie Grigg, 82, alleged that Owens-Illinois made the asbestos-containing products responsible for her mesothelioma. The state court jury agreed, awarding her $11 million in punitive damages. The award is in addition to $16.3 million in other damages assessed against the company in May.

Grigg was diagnosed with mesothelioma in December 2011. Mesothelioma is an aggressive and incurable cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. It is possible to develop mesothelioma due to secondary asbestos exposure. This occurs when a person is indirectly exposed to asbestos through either a household member or the environment. It is increasingly being recognized as a direct cause of mesothelioma and other types of serious asbestos-related illnesses.

Grigg’s asbestos lawsuit claimed that her former husband worked as an insulator for a company that used asbestos-containing products such as Owen-Illinois’ Kaylo-brand insulation. Grigg was exposed when would shake the asbestos dust from his work clothing before she laundered it.

Evidence introduced during trial showed that Owens-Illinois knew that asbestos exposure could cause death as early as the 1930s. The jury found that the company intentionally failed to disclose the known health risks about the Kaylo insulation products to Grigg.

Companies like Owens-Illinois knew for many years that their asbestos-containing products were causing serious illnesses such as mesothelioma, but did nothing to protect the public. Through asbestos law, victims of these negligent companies can gain some measure of justice.

A successful asbestos lawsuit can help you pay related medical bills and provide financial security for your family. If you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you may want to discuss filing a lawsuit with an asbestos attorney. Contact Sokolove Law today for a free case evaluation.


Asbestos Still Lurks in Some Hospitals

Hospitals are meant to be places of healing that exist to restore health to their patients. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case — particularly given that many older hospitals still contain asbestos.

Asbestos was widely used for much of the 20th century in countless building materials. But after researchers linked it to mesothelioma and other serious illnesses, the industrial world largely phased asbestos out of use in the U.S. Exposure to any amount of asbestos is a health risk, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Despite the obvious health risks, some communities still have hospitals that contain asbestos. Here is one current example: Sunderland, a city in the United Kingdom, has 28 hospital buildings with asbestos. These facilities include a children’s center, according to the regional newspaper the Sunderland Echo.

City hospital officials maintain that the material poses no health risk to patients, since it is properly managed. Nevertheless, there is some cause for concern. Many of the buildings in question contain large amounts of amosite, or “brown” asbestos — one of the most toxic forms of the substance.

The concern is that future renovation or demolition projects could release microscopic asbestos fibers into the air. If that happens, workers or patients could unknowingly inhale them. That is exactly what occurred recently in New Zealand, when contractors were exposed to asbestos while working on the roof of an earthquake-damaged hospital.

The workers were reportedly outraged to learn of the asbestos exposure. Additionally, they may have unknowingly put patients and hospital staff at risk by walking through active wards covered in asbestos dust.

If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma and believe you were negligently exposed to asbestos, you may be entitled to financial compensation. To learn more about your legal options, please contact Sokolove Law for a free case evaluation.


So-Called “Transparency Act” Not Transparent

Recently, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee reintroduced the deceptively named “Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency (FACT) Act of 2013.” The only thing transparent about this bill is that it’s part of another anti-accountability campaign intended to grant further protection to those who caused asbestos exposure and widespread suffering. Why should these corporations be held to a lower legal standard than their victims?

The objective of the bill is to delay, unnecessarily, the legal processes that deliver justice to asbestos victims. The industry is trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the public. The plain truth is that this industry will unfairly hide behind FACT and wait for victims to die of asbestos-related diseases before they can receive justice. For more than eight decades, the dangers of asbestos exposure have been clear. Despite the known hazards of asbestos, the industry shielded the facts and continued to put workers and their families in harm’s way by exposing them to the toxic substance. The industry’s success is evident, as asbestos-related diseases kill approximately 10,000 Americans each year.

In its simplicity, the bill does nothing to ban the use of asbestos: Instead, it triggers more barriers to expedited asbestos case processing for victims. For instance, FACT would call for private asbestos bankruptcy trusts to release exhaustive individual information about asbestos victims. This motion alone would delay asbestos cases because it would enable asbestos defendants to overwhelm the trusts with information requests. It would take money put aside for victims of asbestos and use it to pay for teams of personnel to meet these reporting requirements.

All these measures would be taken because there is a baseless allegation of fraud. The asbestos industry’s own studies acknowledge there is no such widespread fraud. Even without this legislation, corporations can acquire all pertinent information to defend themselves against fraud.

Congress’ priority is to protect Americans, not those companies that knowingly exposed workers, families, and consumers to asbestos. With Congress set to vote on the Asbestos Claim Transparency Act, we urge the public to contact its congressmen and congresswomen to oppose the bill. If you would like to join the cause and participate in the petition, please visit //ban.


Caregiver Grandfather Wins Million-Dollar Mesothelioma Lawsuit

A special tribunal awarded an Australian grandfather $1.3 million (in U.S. currency) after mesothelioma left him unable to care for his wife and grandchildren.

Sixty-eight-old Mario Perez was left disabled after his mesothelioma cancer spread to his spine, says an article in Australia’s ABC News. Prior to his debilitating illness, Perez cared for his wife, who has a chronic cardiac condition. He also spent up to three days a week caring for his four grandchildren.

Malignant mesothelioma is a rare but aggressive cancer that occurs in the thin layer of tissue (mesothelium) that surrounds the lungs (and sometimes, the heart and abdomen). Mesothelioma is almost always caused by asbestos exposure.

According to his mesothelioma law firm, Perez encountered asbestos when he worked as a bus depot laborer from the 1970s until 1990. During this time, he came into contact with asbestos from gaskets in bus engines and pipes. (He also was exposed to asbestos when a roof was removed in 1987.)

His mesothelioma law firm had argued that the care he provided to his family should factor into the settlement total. The Australian Dust Diseases Tribunal, which oversaw the settlement, agreed, as ABC News reported.

“We live in a world where grandparents are often very involved in caring for grandchildren and we are very pleased this has been recognized in this judgment,” said a lawyer from Perez’s mesothelioma law firm. “Understandably, Mr. Perez will no longer be capable of providing these invaluable services to his family as his disease progresses and his condition deteriorates,” she said.

Those who work around automobiles and other vehicles tend to be at high risk of asbestos exposure, even in the United States. While guidelines limit the amounts of asbestos in newer vehicles, millions of cars still have asbestos-containing parts, including hood liners, gaskets, heat-seal material, valve rings, and packing, according to this article.

If you or a family member has suffered from the devastating effects of asbestos exposure, you have rights under the law. Monetary compensation in the form of a mesothelioma lawsuit can help pay medical bills and other expenses. Call Sokolove Law for your free, no-obligation case evaluation today.


Asbestos Exposure in Construction A Once and Future Hazard

Currently, falls at jobsites are the number one killer of construction workers, claims the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA). In a December 2012 memorandum, OSHA also notes how it’s trying to remedy that with a new program.

However, there is still the danger of asbestos, which the United States only began regulating in the 1970s.  About two-thirds of asbestos-containing products are created for construction materials. Some 1.3 million construction workers face asbestos exposure annually, and often aren’t given adequate training or equipment to cope with it. Currently, workers who are renovating or demolishing buildings erected from 1950 to 1980 are particularly at risk.

A little background will help. From the 1920s until about 1980, builders needed a material that was cheap, versatile, strong, and fireproof. The mineral asbestos became the substance of choice, and so the building industry applied it in countless construction products. Many people know that asbestos was heavily used in insulation, roofing, cement shingles, cement, floor tiles, spray fireproofing, and other construction materials. However, there were many other lesser-known asbestos products. Many cements, adhesives, and flexboard products contained asbestos, as did the linings of some swimming pools. In short, asbestos was everywhere on construction sites.

When an asbestos-containing material is disturbed, asbestos fibers are released into the air. There they can hang for a long time and be inhaled or swallowed, and eventually cause mesothelioma and other fatal diseases. However, diseases such as lung cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma have a protracted latency period, often as long as 40 years. It took decades for the public to recognize the dangers of asbestos, and by then, the damage had already been done.

Do you have mesothelioma you believed you developed from construction jobsite exposure? Then you may be entitled to financial compensation through a mesothelioma lawsuit. To learn more about your legal options, please contact Sokolove Law for a free case evaluation.


Dangers of Asbestos Webinar on NECN April 13th

Residents of New England will get the opportunity on April 13th, 2010 to witness a live question and answer presentation on the dangers of asbestos by attorney Jim Sokolove of Sokolove Law, Founder and Chairman, retired 2013, provided by New England Cable News (NECN.com). 

As part of NECN’s Ask the Experts series, the news channel will host an opportunity for the public to hear a discussion on the dangers of asbestos, as well as being able to submit their own questions to be asked during the program.  The broadcast will cover topics including the history of asbestos, asbestos’ link to cancer and mesothelioma, exposure risk in occupations, current asbestos litigation, and your legal rights as a victim.

Tuesday, April 13 12:30-1:00 PM ET (Eastern Time) Click here to register and submit a question for the webinar. Sokolove Law, LLC is the nation’s most trusted name in mesothelioma justice, and the first truly national law firm with an office and a licensed attorney in almost every state. James Sokolove’s passion and commitment to legal access and public service has helped bring justice and compensation to over 2,000 victims of asbestos-related diseases and cancers — and their loved ones.


New Jersey Inmates Worked in Abestos Site

The city of Paterson, N.J., may have exposed a work team to asbestos during a recent municipal building renovation.

Work on the offices began last fall, but was halted in December after asbestos was discovered in the site’s floor tiles. According to the news Web site Paterson.Press.com, the work team included city public works employees and inmates. These prisoners were participating in a local community service program for nonviolent offenders, dubbed the Sheriff’s Labor Assistance Program (SLAP). Passaic County Sheriff Richard Berdnik claimed he was “surprised, disappointed and upset” when he learned that the building contained asbestos.

Paterson’s public works chief says that tests of the floor tiles only turned up low levels of a type of asbestos — and one that does not break up easily when disturbed. The crew didn’t perform any tasks that would have released asbestos fibers, claims the chief.

Nevertheless, Berdnik’s spokesman says: “Under no circumstances would we have potentially exposed or would we have allowed any SLAP inmates to be assigned work around any potentially hazardous material.’’ The sheriff’s office is currently investigating the incident, along with the state government’s health, labor and community affairs departments.

According to the National Cancer Institute, there is no known safe level of asbestos exposure. The fibrous mineral has been linked to a higher risk of developing numerous serious illnesses and conditions, including asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma.

If you or a loved one has developed mesothelioma as a result of exposure to asbestos, you may be eligible for a mesothelioma lawsuit. Call Sokolove Law today for a free legal consultation.


Virginia Court Nixes Multi-Million Dollar Asbestos Award

Virginia’s highest court reversed a $17.5 million asbestos verdict, ruling that a judge improperly blocked evidence that may have changed the outcome of the trial.

According to a story in the Daily Press, Rubert “Bert” Minton was awarded the money in 2011, following a three-week trial. A jury in the case found ExxonMobil responsible for exposing Minton to the deadly asbestos fibers that led to his mesothelioma cancer. Minton died of complications from mesothelioma in August 2012.

But this week, the Supreme Court of Virginia reversed the award in a 5-2 vote. The justices claimed the circuit judge presiding over Minton’s trial improperly excluded evidence. This evidence would have shown that Minton’s former employer, Newport News Shipbuilding, had extensive knowledge of the links between asbestos and cancer. As the Supreme Court’s ruling stated it, “the trial court erred in refusing to admit evidence of the shipyard’s knowledge of the dangers of asbestos exposure and its procedures regarding precautions to be taken around asbestos.”

From 1966 and 1977, Minton worked at Newport News Shipbuilding as a repair supervisor on commercial vessels. In his supervisor position, Minton labored on 17 Exxon commercial oil tankers (out of a total of 200 vessels repaired during that time). Because of provisions in the workman’s compensation law, Newport News Shipbuilding holds immunity from asbestos cases brought by former workers.

Nevertheless, ExxonMobil sought to introduce evidence that the shipyard had extensive knowledge of asbestos effects. This way, the jury might have assigned greater responsibility to the shipyard for Minton’s mesothelioma. The circuit judge presiding over the trial blocked the move, and the jury found in Minton’s favor.

Now, the Supreme Court has remanded the case back to Newport News for a possible second trial.

From about World War II until the late 1970s, shipyard workers such as Minton were exposed to high levels of asbestos. The substance frequently was used in ship boilers, turbines, pumps, gaskets, insulation, and other asbestos products.

Did you develop mesothelioma after working around asbestos? Call Sokolove Law today for a free legal consultation about a mesothelioma lawsuit.