Charleston, WV—A man who has been diagnosed with the terminal asbestos cancer mesothelioma has been awarded a substantial amount in compensation – but he might not see a penny of it.
Gordon Conley worked for Union Carbide as a chemical plant operator and electrician for nearly 40 years, and was exposed while there to asbestos fibers on a regular basis. That exposure is what has led to his mesothelioma, a rare cancer which targets the lining of the chest and abdominal cavities, as well as the membrane protecting the heart, lungs and stomach. Conley, 85, was awarded a compensatory sum after his diagnosis of mesothelioma was confirmed by the West Virginia Occupational Pneumonoconiosis Board on October 16, 2008.
This ruling made Conley eligible for disability payments, which will be paid out over a period of several years by Wells Fargo Disability Management, a third-party administrator which handles workers’ compensation claims in the state. Unfortunately, mesothelioma patients rarely live longer than 18 months after diagnosis – only 10 percent of them hit the two-year survival mark. The reason for this a long latency period, meaning that mesothelioma can be developing, but asymptomatic, within the body for as long as several decades. By the time it is diagnosed, it has usually reached end stages. E. William Harvit, Conley’s lawyer, has asked Wells Fargo to reconsider the payment schedule, and instead to pay one lump sum. Well Fargo did not respond to the request until three months later, at which time they told Harvit in a memo that the request was under review. Harvit says he has heard nothing since, despite inquiring in a follow-up letter in July. Conley’s wife may be able to receive further benefits after he dies, but she might also have to contend with red tape and legal problems that could additionally delay a payout.