David Holter worked for Goodyear Tire and Rubber, Inc., for 14 years between 1965 and 1979. Today, he suffers from mesothelioma; his 11-count suit, which names 37 additional defendants in addition to Goodyear, seeks compensatory damages for medical expenses related to the treatment of mesothelioma as well as punitive damages.
According to the complaint, the direct cause of Holter’s illness was actually asbestos-containing materials used in the insulation installed in a plant located in Apple Grove, West Virginia. As a maintenance worker, part of Holter’s job was to “tear off insulation.” The EPA and most states have very strict regulations and specific procedures that must be followed when handling ACMs. As is in the case of many such lawsuits, the present question is, did Goodyear know that the insulation in question contained asbestos?
Holter’s complaint does not appear to mention anything about tire manufacture and repair itself. Yet, working in the tire and rubber industry appears to be yet another high-risk occupation when it comes to asbestos exposure. Asbestos was not normally used in the manufacture of tires directly. However, tire manufacture involves pouring rubber into molds. In order to facilitate the removal of the finished product, the molds are dusted with talc–which is almost invariably contaminated with amphibole asbestos. In addition, when old tires are “recapped” or recycled, there may be asbestos fibers that have been sloughed off from brake linings. This is especially true when such brakes are subject to a great deal of heavy use (as in city driving). Regardless of the exact source of Mr. Holter’s asbestos poisoning, the suit seeks to prove that the company indeed was aware of the hazard and did nothing to protect or warn him–a story that has become all too common since the first asbestos lawsuit was filed over forty years ago.