Sixty-eight defendants have been named in a lawsuit brought by the family of a former Potsdam Civic Center employee who died from the asbestos cancer mesothelioma. Sharon LaDuke, 57, worked at the Civic Center as a senior clerk for 34 years.
The lawsuit alleges that the defendants are responsible for the death, which they say could have been caused by several different factors. LaDuke’s father worked at Alcoa, where he could have been exposed to asbestos fibers and could ostensibly have brought them home on his clothing, thereby exposing his family.
Evidence also points to an asbestos abatement and removal job that took place at the Potsdam Civic Center in 1999 and 2000. Asbestos-wrapped pipes and an old boiler that may have contained asbestos were removed from the facility, and the lawsuit alleges that the abatement and removal were performed improperly, thereby releasing hazardous asbestos fibers into the air.
Malignant mesothelioma, a cancer which targets the lining of the chest cavity and the outer lining of the lungs, is almost exclusively linked to asbestos inhalation or ingestion. It has an extremely long latency period, and may not be diagnosed until years after the exposure to asbestos. For this reason, it’s uncertain when LaDuke may have experienced the exposure which sickened her. LaDuke died in May 2009.
Her family’s attorneys have named the manufacturer of the boiler, Cleaver-Brooks Co., as well as over 60 other defendants, mostly manufacturers and installers. The city of Potsdam has not yet been named in the suit, but it is expected that it will be included at a later date. The suit was filed in the New York State Supreme Court, and is being handled by the Manhattan law firm Belluck & Fox LLP, which specializes in mesothelioma and asbestos-related cases.