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W&L Gets Significant Financial Settlement Due to Death from Occupational Asbestos Exposure

June 4, 2018
Home Firm News W&L Gets Significant Financial Settlement Due to Death from Occupational Asbestos Exposure

As soon as this 60+ year-old Pennsylvania power plant employee received a diagnosis of pleural mesothelioma, he reached out to Weitz & Luxenberg for legal help. And it’s a good thing he did.

He reached out because he learned that his fatal cancer was caused by only one thing —exposure to asbestos. And that exposure happened at work.

Pennsylvania Employers Are Responsible for Asbestos-Exposure

In spite of undergoing several surgeries in just a few months and being heavily medicated, our client was able to testify on his own behalf. Sadly, he died shortly afterwards, before his case was settled.

However, his wife received a significant financial amount that W&L attorneys negotiated in this settlement. Since we began fighting for clients’ rights three decades ago, W&L verdicts and settlements now total $17 billion.

“We are confident that our client’s employer and the 10 product manufacturers who were the defendants in this case now realize they cannot treat the health and safety of employees or consumers with callous disregard,” states W&L attorney Michael R. Barry.

Product Manufacturers and Asbestos Liability

Manufacturers of products containing asbestos, which were used by employees of the power plant, settled for a variety of dollar amounts.

As an employee, our client worked in operations and maintenance at the power plant. His job required him to maintain equipment on a regular basis. The replacement parts and other products he used to perform maintenance work at the power plant contained asbestos, a known carcinogen.

Our client clearly remembered the names of these products because he used them so frequently. He also remembered that there were no warnings of the hazards of asbestos on the packaging of those products.

Nearly Half of Settlement Came from Employer

In Pennsylvania, unlike most states, employees can sue their employers for being injured on the job. In other states, they need to go through Workers’ compensation.

During his work at the coal-fired power plant, from the 1970s through the 1980s, our client testified that he was never warned of the hazards of asbestos exposure by his employer. No protective measures were taken to insure the health of employees with respect to asbestos exposure. In fact, respirators were not supplied until near the end of our client’s career.

Our client only became aware of the dangers of asbestos in the late 1980s, while attending training conducted by an outside agency. This training was meant to teach employees how to identify and properly remove asbestos.

Exposure to Asbestos Continued

Unfortunately, the training came too late for our client. By this point in time, he had already been repeatedly exposed to asbestos in the workplace for more than 20 years.

Even after learning of the dangers of asbestos, our client was further exposed while breathing ambient air and being around asbestos-containing pipe insulation that had not yet been abated. Our client recalled that there were miles of friable pipe covering in the plant.

Further, his employer only abated asbestos on a job-specific basis. Our client testified that by the end of the 1980s, the plant had never shut down to perform any wholesale abatement.

Occupational Asbestos Exposure

Two of the most common industrial uses of asbestos have been as a strengthening agent and as insulation. One of the occupations where workers are most likely to be exposed to asbestos is mechanical work.

Our client’s exposure to asbestos, which causes mesothelioma — one of the most virulent forms of cancer — came while he performed his duties in the power plant. He began working for the coal-fired power plant in the early 1970s and served in a variety of roles — operations plant helper, boiler tender, pump operator.

He became a maintenance mechanic in the late 1970s and was promoted to supervisor 25 years later. After a career spanning nearly 40 years, he retired.

While in operations and maintenance at the power plant, our client was repeatedly exposed to asbestos-contaminated dust as he performed tasks in every aspect of the plant. These tasks included working on boilers, compressors, evaporators, gaskets, pumps, turbines, and valves. Many of the products used to install, fix, replace, or insulate this equipment contained asbestos.

Exposed to Asbestos-Containing Dust

Our client testified that the plant had a handful of boilers, high-maintenance compressors, miles of asbestos-containing pipe, a couple of hundred pumps, and hundreds of valves and gaskets. They all required frequent maintenance.

When he worked on this equipment, the work created a dust laced with asbestos. Our client breathed in the dust without knowing the risks.

Asbestos was even present in the cement used to seal brick in the boilers. Just mixing the dry cement created an asbestos-laced dust, which he inhaled.

Asbestos was in the gaskets and dust was created every time he had to cut sheet gasket material. He was exposed to asbestos when he installed or repaired insulation.

He testified that the pumps were equipment he frequently worked. They, too, exposed him to asbestos-laced dust.

Some pumps were in the basement of the plant and were used for cooling water to the bearings. He performed this work very often because the plant used river water for this. The river water was full of impurities that quickly wore out the shafts and other pump components.

Hazards of Asbestos-Containing Dust

Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring minerals that are bundled together into tiny durable fibers. When asbestos is disturbed, these tiny fibers tend to break off and float in the air or mix with dust that can be inhaled.(1)

Once inhaled, asbestos fibers lodge in the lungs. Repeated exposure creates a buildup in the lungs causing damage, such as scarring and inflammation. It often takes years or decades before mesothelioma symptoms, such as coughing or shortness of breath, begin to appear.

Mesothelioma is a cancer affecting the thin membranes lining the chest wall, abdomen, and lungs. Mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos and is always fatal.

Mesothelioma Lawsuits in Pennsylvania

If you or a loved one has been recently diagnosed with mesothelioma, contact the attorneys at Weitz & Luxenberg to explore your legal options.

Weitz & Luxenberg has an experienced, knowledgeable team of lawyers who fight for justice for our clients. “We are proud of the work we do on behalf of our clients,” says Leonard F. Feldman. “It’s what we do best, and we would be honored to represent you.”

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