A soft-spoken used car salesman from Philadelphia in his 60s came to Weitz & Luxenberg for help after he was diagnosed with mesothelioma. His exposure to asbestos-laced dust came while he was working in a car dealership and had bystander exposure from mechanics who were performing work with asbestos-containing products in his presence. He also had exposure from performing “shade tree” mechanical work on cars with his Dad, and from performing some minor home renovations.
Importantly, his exposure was both direct and secondary in nature. This helped when the attorneys at W&L were negotiating settlements with the manufacturers of the products responsible for making him sick.
Our W&L attorneys are skilled at negotiating settlements and verdicts for our clients. We were able to get our client a seven-figure dollar settlement for his cancer. That adds to the W&L total of $17 billion in verdicts and settlements for all our clients.
Weitz & Luxenberg attorney Mary Grabish Gaffney says, “Secondary and bystander exposure to asbestos is every bit as deadly as direct exposure when it comes to mesothelioma. We were very happy that we were able to secure payment for our client payment for these exposures and for his pain and suffering.”
Childhood Exposure to Asbestos
Our client was first exposed to asbestos as a child in the 1950s. This secondary exposure was due to his father, employed by a steel company, who frequently worked around insulated pipes and equipment. The pipe-coverings contained asbestos. Our client’s older brother affirmed that their father would come home with asbestos-containing dust on his clothing.
Yet this would not be our client’s only exposure to asbestos. He was exposed to asbestos again and again from the 1950s to the mid-1970s; his exposure was trifold in that he worked with products directly; was a bystander while others used asbestos-containing products in his presence; and he also had secondary exposure to asbestos from his father who brought dust home on his clothing.
Exposure During Service in the U.S. Coast Guard
Our client served honorably in the U.S. Coast Guard. While he served onboard ship, he frequently played cards in the boiler room with his shipmates.
Some of the time he spent playing cards was while guys were performing work around him on equipment. This work included repairing pumps and boilers, where there was asbestos.
Direct Asbestos Exposure from Auto Parts
Further exposure occurred when he worked with his father, who had a shade-tree mechanic business from the mid 1960s to early 1970s. His father would do several brake jobs each week.
When helping his father, our client would remove brakes from the boxes they came in, which exposed him to asbestos-containing dust. He would then sand each brake shoe prior to installation, exposing himself to more dust.
When he and his father removed brakes from cars, they used a wire brush and breathed in the dust that was created from brushing. Then he cleaned up after the brake jobs, sweeping the garage floor and re-exposing himself to the dust created from the brake jobs.
His father used asbestos-containing friction products in his business. While the labels on the packaging of some products said there was asbestos in the product, there were no warnings about the dangers of asbestos.
Other mechanical work our client performed with his father included removal of gaskets with a grinder, which created dust. Again, there was asbestos in the dust.
Direct Exposure from Home Repair Projects
Additionally, our client worked with his father on home renovations where the materials they used contained asbestos. In these home projects, exposure came from asbestos-containing construction materials and premixed joint compound.
The joint compound needed to be applied to the walls of the home in three or four coats. Between coats, the client sanded the joint compound, releasing asbestos fibers into the air.
He also swept up each day. Again there were no warnings on the labels of the packaging and no breathing protection was used.
Repeated Secondary Asbestos Exposure
For 18 months, our client worked in the auto shop of a car dealership where he was exposed to asbestos dust as a bystander. He often stood just a few feet away from professional mechanics as they worked doing brake jobs and clutch installations, again using asbestos-containing products.
Our client would breathe in the dust that was being created as this work was performed. This dust contained asbestos, which settled in our client’s lungs.
Health and Financial Security Jeopardized
Our client’s mesothelioma had a devastating impact on his health and financial security. In the years following his diagnosis, his total earnings were well below the national poverty level.
As his health further deteriorated, he was forced to wind down his business, finally closing it in 2013. Mesothelioma has also jeopardized the future with his family — his wife of more than a dozen years, stepchildren, and step-grandchildren. He lives each day wondering how much time he has left to spend with his loved ones.
Mesothelioma Is Cancer
Mesothelioma is a particularly virulent form of cancer affecting the thin tissue lining that surrounds the lungs, chest wall, and abdomen. Symptoms of mesothelioma may not present for decades after exposure to asbestos, which is the only known cause of this form of cancer.
The cancer is aggressive and always fatal.
How Asbestos Causes Harm
Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring mineral fibers that form bundles. In products containing asbestos, these fibers can break off and permeate the air with dust, which can then be inhaled.
Once inhaled, asbestos fibers lodge in the lungs, accumulating with each repeated exposure. Asbestos fibers cause scarring and inflammation over a long period of time. Scarring can lead to the development of serious lung diseases such as mesothelioma.(1)
Industrial Applications of Asbestos
Asbestos has many industrial applications because it is chemical, heat, and fire resistant. Additionally, asbestos does not conduct electricity.
Asbestos is often used in insulation or mixed into products to strengthen them. While new uses of asbestos were banned in the United States in 1989, it still exists in many products.(2)
More importantly, certain workers are prone to exposure to asbestos, e.g., mechanics and construction workers, including those who do home renovations.
W&L Attorneys Fight for Clients Suffering from Asbestos Exposure
Ms. Gaffney comments, “Clearly, manufacturers have a responsibility to put warnings on their package labels that caution consumers about the use of a product which contains a known carcinogen. The multiple defendants in this case failed to do this. This warning needs to extend to both the user and those within the zone of danger”
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, Weitz & Luxenberg’s experienced and knowledgeable team can help you consider all of your legal options. Please contact us now.