Mesothelioma is a deadly form of cancer linked solely to exposure to asbestos, a building material used heavily from the 1800s through the late 1970s.
This terminal malignancy develops in protective lining that covers many of the body’s internal organs, including the lungs. Although median survival rate following diagnosis is less than one year, the lapse between exposure and diagnosis often spans decades.
Boston wrongful death attorneys at the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman know mesothelioma litigation is highly technical and complex, requiring extensive investigation and meticulous preparation. Just overcoming the hurdle of a defense-favored summary judgment (dismissal) on technical legal grounds can be a significant challenge.
Our dedicated legal team has secured numerous victories for our clients and their families against companies that knew asbestos-laden products and materials were dangerous, and yet failed to take protective action or provide adequate warning. In some cases, firms actively concealed the risk from workers and the public.Mesothelioma Diagnosis
Mesothelioma is a form of cancer that affects the lungs and abdomen. It’s labeled such because it occurs within the mesothelial cells that line the outer surface of most internal organs. This lining is referred to as the mesothelium. Specifically, mesothelioma affects the tissue that covers the lungs and abdomen.
About two thirds or three quarters of the time, mesothelioma occurs in the chest. This is called pleural mesothelioma. When the disease is diagnosed in the abdomen, it’s called peritoneal mesothelioma.
The disease is caused by exposure to asbestos. Specifically, individuals inhale fibers and those fibers become lodged in the lining of the lung. Some fibers are breathed in, coughed up and swallowed, which is most likely the cause of peritoneal mesothelioma.
Asbestos exposure is the presumed cause of mesothelioma. Exposure to the material is also known to result in asbestosis, COPD and lung cancer.
Early symptoms of mesothelioma and asbestos-related illness include:
- Shortness of breath
- A cough or change in cough pattern
- Blood in the fluid coughed up from lungs
- Pain in one’s chest or abdomen
- Bowel obstruction
- Difficulty swallowing
- Severe weight loss
- Blood clotting abnormalities or anemia
Early diagnosis is critical for mesothelioma patients. The disease is fatal and there is no known cure, though some treatments have been shown to prolong lifespan and life enjoyment. Researchers and medical teams are constantly working to develop new treatments and medications, and many continue to hold out hope of finding a cure.Sources of Asbestos Exposure
A diagnosis of mesothelioma may seem just the beginning, but the fact is, the damage was done long before. The latency period between exposure and diagnosis usually ranges from 20 to 50 years.
Asbestos is a mineral mined and used commercially in North America since the late 1890s, particularly during WWII and in post-war manufacturing and construction. Building industries use this naturally-occurring, fibrous material to strengthen plastics and cement and to improve sound absorption, fireproofing, roofing and insulation. Shipbuilders used it to insulate hot water pipes, steam pipes and boilers. Auto industry manufacturers found the material useful for clutch pads and brake shoes. The material was also found in a variety of adhesives, coatings, plastics, paint, floor and ceiling tiles.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission banned asbestos for certain uses in in 1978, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency banned all new uses of the material in 1989. However, all previous uses are still allowed. Some companies do continue to use it, but they do so at their own risk because the danger is well-known at this point, and many companies that used to produce asbestos-laden products have been the subject of extensive litigation. Dozens were forced to file bankruptcy, and trusts were established from which current and future victims and their families continue to seek compensation for illness and wrongful death.
A significant number of people were exposed to asbestos during the course of their work. Families of workers were exposed when the workers came home with clothing covered with asbestos dust. Some occupations in which asbestos exposure was common are:
- Asbestos miners
- Armed force service members
- Auto mechanics and auto plant workers
- Building engineers
- Construction workers
- Demolition crews
- Railroad workers
- Rubber workers
- Shipyard workers
- Warehouse workers
- Factory workers in locations that produced plastic or heat-resistant clothing or fabrics
Consumers too were exposed in the course of carrying out home renovation projects.
Exposure continues to occur to this day when individuals and companies are careless during demolition and renovation projects, failing to take proper precautions to ensure asbestos doesn’t become friable and airborne.
When it comes to compensation, employers are generally protected under workers’ compensation laws. For those who likely sustained occupational exposure, workers compensation benefits can and should be secured early in the process to cover medical expenses and, if applicable, lost wages.
Beyond that, however, litigation typically focuses on asbestos product manufacturers. In most cases, more than one defendant is named because exposure likely occurred from multiple sources.
It’s imperative that all relevant defendants be properly identified and that all applicable statutes of limitations are observed. This means lawsuits must be timely filed, with the clock typically starting to run at the time of asbestos illness diagnosis.
Contact the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman today for a free and confidential consultation.
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