Given the behavior of large corporations and extremely wealthy individuals over the past several years, perhaps it’s not inappropriate to consider money and power as narcotics. After all, the length to which many of these people and institutions go in order to acquire more and more is certainly indicative of addiction…and has had similarly destructive effects on those around them. For example, according to a lawsuit filed in Jefferson County, Texas, by one Paul A. Wilhelm and his wife Moye, the A.W. Chesterton corporation and 29 other entities deliberately conspired to “…mine, process and sell asbestos products, suppressing the information pertaining to the fiber’s hazardous influence on health” while “…purposely inflicting him with an asbestos disease.”
It is reminiscent of what one would say about a crack or “meth” dealer… the businesses to which the asbestos was sold were the addicts… and Wilhelm became the unfortunate third-party whose life was destroyed as a result. The Wilhelms’ complaint states that the defendants–which also include American Standard, General Electric and Zurn Industries–were well aware of the fact that their asbestos-containing products could be defective and cause serious injury, yet continued to market them. The complaint goes on to state: “Defendants knowingly conspired among themselves to cause Wilhelm’s injuries, diseases, and illness and/or death by exposing him to asbestos… Defendants committed conspiracy by willfully misrepresenting and suppressing the truth as to the risks and dangers associated with asbestos.”
It is now acknowledged by both the legal profession (a member of which exposed the information back in 1977) and the corporate world that information regarding the health hazards of asbestos has been available in the U.S. since the 1930s and was deliberately suppressed as part of a corporate conspiracy. While the suit does not specify where Wilhelm worked during his life, the list of worksites at which he was allegedly employed at one time or another reads like a rogues’ gallery of asbestos sites: shipyards, steel mills, refineries, pulp mills, chemical plants, and the U.S. military. Wilhelm’s suit seeks unspecified compensatory, punitive and exemplary damages.