Beginning in 2001, the Texas Supreme Court allowed victims of asbestos related diseases to sue twice: once for an initial ailment such as asbestosis, and a second time for an asbestos-caused cancer such as mesothelioma. Such were the circumstances surrounding a former employee of the ALCOA plant in Rockdale, Texas, Henry Pustejovsky. Pustejovsky discovered after his faithful service of 25 years on the potlines at the plant that he had developed a scarring in his lungs known as asbestosis in 1982. Just 12 years later, in 1994, he went to his doctor complaining of difficulty breathing. He was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the tissues lining various body cavities, especially the lungs. Pustejovsky did not survive for long. He succumbed to the cancer ravaging his body a year following his diagnosis in 1995. Mesothelioma’s deadly speed is not unusual. Most patients who are diagnosed are given between 12 to 18 months to live. There is no known cure for the cancer, and the majority of treatment regimes used proves ineffective against the tumor for many people.
With as little as physicians know about how to treat mesothelioma, they are certain that the only known cause is the inhalation of asbestos fibers or particles decades before the cancer develops. Such a long latency period has been the subject of many scientific studies, but it is clear that the damage done by asbestos in the body can take many decades to manifest after the initial exposure. It was through the diligence of Henry Pustejovsky’s family that the Texas Supreme Court ruled in 2001 to allow for workers to sue a second time for developing an asbestos-caused cancer after a primary suit for developing asbestosis. In a large number of mesothelioma patients, asbestosis is seen as a precursor, often appearing years before any tests would hint that a cancer might develop. Some with asbestosis are never diagnosed with cancer, while others such as Pustejovsky die of mesothelioma a decade later. Lawyers warn workers who have an asbestos-related disease that the Texas courts place a time limit for filing for a lawsuit. Anyone considering that route needs to discuss the matter with an attorney specializing in mesothelioma cases.