Eight days into a trial in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, lawyers for Weitz & Luxenberg reached a large financial settlement with the employer of a welder who died after being exposed to asbestos on the job.
Pennsylvania is one of the few states where an employee can sue an employer for conditions that led to getting sick on the job. In most other states, the employee needs to go through Workers’ compensation instead.
The settlement money went to the family of our client, who died from mesothelioma cancer in his 70s. Overall, Weitz & Luxenberg attorney settlements and verdicts total $17 billion on behalf of our clients.
Client Suffered Exposure to Asbestos Throughout His Life
Throughout the 1960s, our client had jobs that exposed him to asbestos-bearing products and the dangers of asbestos contamination. He worked as a garage mechanic doing automobile repairs. He also worked at a lumberyard and as a press operator.
But it was his employment at a steel manufacturing company for more than 30 years that caused his most serious exposure. This was both because of the products he used and because of the poor safety procedures used by his employer.
During his employment at this steel manufacturing company, our client was exposed to asbestos from his work on and around annealing furnaces, boilers, piping, refractory materials, pumps, valves, and gaskets. He was also exposed to asbestos fibers in insulation, packing materials, asbestos gloves and clothing, flanges, and asbestos blankets.
Upon learning of our client’s diagnosis of mesothelioma, his family knew they needed a strong law firm to represent them. They contacted Weitz & Luxenberg and our attorneys began preparing a case.
Settlement Reached Before Trial Concludes
After eight days of testimony, and just before closing arguments were to begin, a settlement was reached with the employer. According to Weitz & Luxenberg lead attorney Michael R. Barry, “We were able to reach this settlement based on the testimony from a coworker about the conditions on the job location and on the employer’s unwillingness to act to remediate those dangerous conditions.”
Our client was a welder who worked regularly with our key witness, a pipesetter, at the manufacturing company. The men worked with products that contained asbestos and in areas that were contaminated with asbestos insulation. “It wasn’t until the late 1980s that the employees, including our client, were warned by the company about the dangers of asbestos,” points out W&L attorney Jenna Kristal Egner, who was second chair at the trial.
Employer Did Nothing to Correct Hazardous Working Conditions
The use of asbestos to insulate pipes and to be used as a fire retardant was very common for many decades. The federal government has been passing and enforcing regulations to limit these dangerous products in the workplace. However, all asbestos is still not banned in the U.S.
Our client worked repairing furnace shells and performing mechanical work on a weekly basis. These repairs constantly exposed him to asbestos dust and contamination. Mr. Barry explains, “Testimony at the trial showed constant reports from asbestos abatement experts that there were numerous asbestos threats at the plant: asbestos-containing insulation on the steam lines, bricks and gaskets from furnaces testing positive for asbestos, and asbestos-containing parts that had to be constantly repaired and replaced.”
The testimony of our client’s coworker confirmed that the men were never provided with protective gear, and that the work clothes they did have were made with asbestos. Attorney Egner insists, “This kind of disregard for the safety of the employees of the company needs to be exposed, and the employees and their families need to be compensated for their pain and suffering. Weitz & Luxenberg has an excellent record in getting our clients reparation. We fight for our clients. And we do our best to win for them.”
Dangers of Exposure to Asbestos
In the late 1970s, asbestos was classified as a substance that can cause cancer in human beings.(1) Since then, steps have been taken to remove asbestos products from the workplace and the home, and in schools.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral, composed of bundles of fibers. These fibers can be woven into products used for insulation and heat-resistant products. Asbestos has been mined and used for centuries.
The danger is that as these asbestos products are subjected to wear, the threads break off. These crystal fibers get into the air and the dust is breathed in. The fibers lodge in the lungs, where they accumulate and cause scarring over a long period of time. This scarring can lead to the development of serious lung diseases such as mesothelioma.(2)
Mesothelioma is defined as a cancer affecting the thin tissues that line the lungs, chest wall, and abdomen. Exposure to asbestos is the leading risk factor for contracting mesothelioma.(3) Even though our client smoked a pack of cigarettes a day for 25 years, cigarettes were not a factor in his developing mesothelioma.
After exposure, mesothelioma can take years to develop. Victims typically suffer from chest pain and shortness of breath as lung function decreases. While the cancer can be treated and the end result delayed, mesothelioma is always fatal.