Nearly three decades after asbestos was officially banned in the United States, lawsuits and verdicts over asbestos exposure continue to emerge in the American court system. Most recently, chemical giant Down Chemical Company was ordered to pay $5.95 million to the family of a woman who passed away from cancer caused by asbestos exposure.
Dow was found liable on all counts relating to its illegal use of asbestos and consequent employee exposure. The plant at issue in this case, located in Plaquemine, Louisiana, is the largest chemical plant in the state, and it continues to use raw asbestos.
Asbestos is known to cause cancer – namely, mesothelioma – and was completely banned in the U.S. in July 1989. Deep-pocketed companies like Dow Chemical, however, estimated that it would cost over $1 billion to convert its processes to asbestos alternatives, and successfully lobbied the EPA so it could be allowed to use raw asbestos. Most other chemical companies stopped using asbestos in favor of other, significantly less-toxic elements, in the early 1990s.
The Louisiana lawsuit was filed on behalf of Sidney Mabile, who was recently diagnosed with mesothelioma, an extremely fatal type of cancer whose only known cause is asbestos exposure. Throughout trial, Mabile’s family argued that Dow knowingly exposed thousands of its workers to asbestos after it conducted a “cost per cancer” analysis.
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Dow Chemical is also a leader in the European market, where it continues to use raw asbestos because it believes paying the mesothelioma verdicts is cheaper than converting its processing practices. The European Trade Union issued a report on the use of asbestos on the continent, where it blatantly noted that Dow has submitted “no technical case for its stance.”
The Trade Union outlines that other chemical plants that made the conversion from asbestos to safer materials have not experienced a significant increase in energy consumption. Despite this, Dow continues to argue that substitution would cause a substantial difference. The Union further states that, with the exception of one Polish manufacturer, Dow is now the only company left in Europe that opposes a blanket asbestos ban.
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Employees who are exposed to asbestos on the job can sue their employer or the asbestos-containing part manufacturer in a civil court case. Liability in these cases are typically based on one of three theories: first, that the entity acted negligently in using asbestos; second, that the entity violated a warranty by selling a product which it knew to be dangerous; and third, that the entity had a strict duty to sell a safe product, which it violated.
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When asbestos fibers are inhaled into the lungs, they become lodged in the lining of internal organs and remain there permanently. Over long periods of time, usually several decades, those fibers turn normal, healthy tissue into cancerous tumors. Because the cancer takes so long to manifest, proving that one specific company caused the asbestos exposure can be difficult.
Mesothelioma victims who worked at companies like Dow Chemical for long periods of time have an easier time proving causation. Other mesothelioma victims may be wondering where, when and how they were exposed to asbestos. The industries at highest risk of asbestos exposure include, but are not limited to: shipbuilding, automotive, construction, demolition and building trades, insulation and pipefitting, and firefighting.
Further compounding the problem, workers exposed to asbestos dust while on the job – drywall removers, for example – can carry the toxic dust on them when they return home, exposing their families to the carcinogens as well. Experts have identified mesothelioma cancers in victims exposed to asbestos even for short periods of time, however, it is more common for victims to be diagnosed after being exposed for long periods and in large amounts.
Our team of asbestos exposure attorneys understands the immense issues mesothelioma victims face. Those who were exposed while on the job may be able to recover substantial compensation for mounting medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages. If you were recently diagnosed with mesothelioma, contact our firm today for a free legal evaluation. We will thoroughly investigate your case to determine when and how you were exposed, and who should be held accountable for your exposure.