Weitz & Luxenberg Disappointed by Watered Down 'Ban Asbestos' Bill
Advocates frustrated by weakened language
After a long battle, the "Ban Asbestos in America Act" was finally passed in the Senate in October, much to the relief of advocates for asbestos victims and many others fighting to cease use of the known carcinogen. Celebrations for the ban will have to wait, however, since the final draft of the bill fails to block all asbestos-containing products.
As a result, many who initially favored the bill are now disputing its approval.
Jessica Russell, a lawyer in the Asbestos Litigation Unit at Weitz & Luxenberg, P.C. said, “This ban is simply unacceptable. The threat of asbestos exposure will remain for those working with the products that haven’t been blocked, their family members who can also be exposed secondarily, and for the public at large that is unaware of its continued use."
Last-minute changes to the Act make asbestos exposure a continued, far-reaching threat. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported, for example, that talc-containing asbestos from upstate New York mines owned by R.T. Vanderbilt had been used recently in children's art clay. Yet despite the documentation of mine workers being sickened or killed by exposure to that talc, the Senate-passed bill does not block the powder from being sold. Similarly, a vermiculite ore mine in Libby, Montana, shut down in 1990 due to its asbestos contamination and the hundreds of deaths it caused, could potentially reopen without the firmer restrictions originally proposed.
In early October, every Senate member voted for the Act, first introduced by Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.). Scientists and physicians supported it as well, along with victims and widows who have suffered from the effects of the dangerous substance. Proponents of the bill were disappointed to learn that the language had been watered down and much of what they had fought for had been omitted.
Weitz & Luxenberg, P.C., has many notable successes in fighting for those who have been harmed by asbestos. In May, the firm obtained a jury verdict of $37 million for two smokers with lung cancer who had been exposed to asbestos (Index Nos. 100016/99 and 113583/05, New York Supreme Court). The defendant was Robert A. Keasbey Company, a former insulation contractor and distributor of asbestos products. Weitz & Luxenberg’s successes date back to 1991 with a historic consolidated trial involving men who worked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard during and after World War II. Weitz & Luxenberg represented 36 clients in that case, securing a verdict of $75 million.
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