Peoria-based construction vehicle company Caterpillar, or CAT, was recently hit with a $4.5 million jury verdict over its asbestos-containing products. The lawsuit was filed by the wife of a man diagnosed with mesothelioma, a form of cancer caused by asbestos exposure. Our team of mesothelioma lawyers details this case below.
Edwin Estenson was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2010 after working on and around asbestos-containing products for more than a decade. He filed suit against CAT and other companies in 2011, taping depositions describing his history with the company's products, such as gaskets and other engine parts. Estenson worked as a construction worker and equipment maintenance foreman. He worked specifically with CAT products in the 1960s, before asbestos was federally banned.
Estenson passed away in February 2012. His wife Betty pursued the lawsuit on his behalf when the trial began in April 2013. During the four-week trial, Edwin's videotaped testimonials were played describing his work on CAT bulldozers and engine parts. The jury ultimately found CAT liable for inadequately warning workers and for making asbestos-containing products, awarding Betty $4.5 million.
CAT appealed, however, the appeals court upheld the verdict, saying it is well-established that an asbestos plaintiff can prove exposure to a defendant's product through either direct or circumstantial evidence. In other words, a plaintiff does not need to provide a detailed description of the facts involving the asbestos-containing products and their consequent exposure.
The appeals court judges stated that the Estensons merely needed to show that Edwin was exposed to an asbestos-containing product that was sold, made, or supplied by CAT, which they did. They did not need to provide evidence that he inhaled airborne asbestos fibers specifically and directly from the defendant's products, as that would be nearly impossible.
Mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses often take decades to develop. It is quite common for there to be a 50-year gap between exposure to asbestos and mesothelioma diagnosis. This gap, also known as the latency period, is one of the reasons why mesothelioma is so fatal. The typical latency period is between 20 and 50 years.
The latency period length depends on many factors, such as how long the person was exposed and the intensity of exposure. Studies show that shorter and lower levels of exposure result in longer latency periods.
The location of the cancer and gender of the patient can also affect the latency period. Women have been shown to have an average latency period five years longer than men. Pleural mesothelioma, which develops in the lining of the lungs, also has a longer latency time compared to peritoneal mesothelioma, which occurs in the lining of the abdomen.
There are four types of mesothelioma: pleural, peritoneal, pericardial, and testicular. Pericardial and testicular mesotheliomas are extremely rare, while the majority of these cancers are pleural.
CAT has been in business for 90 years, building its global headquarters in Peoria in 1967. The company manufactures construction, resource industry, and energy and transportation products and employs hundreds of thousands of people. It has eight manufacturing plants in Illinois alone, and records tens of billions in sales every year.
The asbestos exposure lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm have been fighting on behalf of workers and their families for 30 years. We know how devastating any cancer diagnosis can be, and particularly those caused by workplace exposure. We offer a free book, 100 Questions & Answers About Mesothelioma, to anyone interested in learning more about this disease, its cause, and the companies responsible for workers' exposure. Contact our firm for a free consultation; we accept clients nationwide.