Lung cancer lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm report that the U.S. Supreme Court recently refused – for the eighth time in seven years – to hear appeals from cigarette manufacturers and lung cancer patients’ lawsuits. Their refusal lets the $70 million smokers have won thus far stand.
These cases relied on a recent Florida ruling that allowed individual smokers (or their family members if they had passed away) to sue tobacco companies based on prior jury findings. Plaintiffs only had to show that they had become addicted to cigarettes, which caused their illness or consequent death.
As a result of this ruling (called the Engle decision), which was filed in 1994, thousands of individual plaintiffs were able to win their lawsuits against cigarette companies. This most recent “wave” of plaintiffs have won about $64 million in verdicts in total.
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The Engle case involved six individuals who made separate claims of illegal behavior by tobacco companies, ranging from dangerous and flawed product designs to blatant fraud. This 1994 case was initially filed as a class action on behalf of all American smokers who had died or become seriously ill from cigarettes, however it was reduced to Florida-only plaintiffs who were only able to file individual suits.
The original Engle lawsuit ended in a jury award of $145 billion, although that award was set aside by the Florida Supreme Court in 2006. All evidence and findings produced throughout that case were binding, meaning they could be used in future lawsuits.
After this 2006 decision nearly 10,000 individual lawsuits were filed, much to the dismay of the tobacco companies, who have tried and tried again to have the Engle case reviewed and tossed. The U.S. Supreme Court has simply denied all request and refused to grant any new reviews.
Options for Lung Cancer Patients
Smoking is, overwhelmingly, the leading cause of lung cancer worldwide. One of the lesser-known causes of lung cancer is exposure to radon gas. Radon is a radioactive gas that releases from the natural decay of uranium, thorium, and radium in rocks and soil. Unfortunately, radon is odorless, tasteless, and can seep up through the ground and infiltrate pipes, diffuse into the air, or contaminate groundwater.
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Although most people are unaware of it, radon is present in nearly all air, and we breathe it in every day. Those who inhale disproportionately higher levels of radon are at risk of developing lung cancer – thousands of people are diagnosed with lung cancer every year even though they never smoked, and were never exposed to second-hand smoke.
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Anyone who has ever worked in an underground mine is at an increased risk of radon-caused lung cancer – and basement or first-floor apartments typically have the highest levels of radon, as they are closest to the ground. In fact, radon was first discovered to be a serious health problem when scientists noted that underground workers mining for uranium were dying from lung cancer at extremely high rates. There have also been suggestions that it can lead to leukemia in both children and adults.
Radon Lung Cancer, Then and Now
The legal implications of radon-caused lung cancers have been hotly debated since the mid-1980s (though the dangers of exposure had been known since the 50s). In 1984, a man named Stanley Watras set off alarms at his place of employment – nuclear power plant – for having high levels of radioactive radon on his clothing. Upon testing, investigators found Watras’ home had radon levels over 1,000 times greater than the EPA’s recommended guidelines.
It was at this point that the dangers of residential radon contamination became a national issue. It quickly became clear that the cancer risk from indoor radon was more than all outdoor pollutants combined. Attorneys specializing in real estate started analyzing the legal implications of radioactive radon exposure in residences, and litigation began soon thereafter.
Despite the clear evidence and annunciation of risk, Americans soon lost interest in the issue of indoor radon. Thus, the responsibility for mitigating the risk has fallen on the federal government; disturbingly but not surprisingly, the government has done little to regulate, control, and inform the public about indoor radon. There have been bills, laws and legislation passed, of course, but the gas is still causing thousands of cancers every year.
As it is a natural occurrence, radon-rich soils are not found equally throughout the country, so each state has its own initiatives for dealing with the gas. The four states with the highest radon levels are Florida, Maine, Pennsylvania, and New York.
If you or someone you love was recently diagnosed with lung cancer, even if you have a history of smoking, contact our firm immediately. We have a wide network of legal and medical experts who will investigate your case, free of charge, and determine whether or not you have a case. It’s a free phone call, contact the lung cancer lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm today.
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