An 86-year-old Los Angeles area construction worker was recently awarded $48 million in an asbestos product liability case. The man alleged that he was exposed to asbestos fibers as a bystander during his 30 years as a general construction contractor and cement contractor. The man's asbestos exposure led to his eventual development of pleural mesothelioma.
Many construction workers across the United States have developed mesothelioma due to their exposure to asbestos fibers. Mesothelioma is a rare, often fatal cancer caused primarily by asbestos exposure. Asbestos was used in a variety of American commercial products for well over a century because it helps make products fire-retardant, heat-resistant and stronger.
The Los Angeles construction worker developed pleural mesothelioma after his long tenure in the construction industry, from 1947 until 1980. Pleural mesothelioma is the most common form of mesothelioma and spreads in the lung lining called the pleural membrane when asbestos fibers become lodged in lung cells.
There are two layers to the pleural membrane, which supports and protects the chest cavity. Mesothelioma typically starts in one layer and spreads to the other, making the prognosis for a patient worse.
The symptoms of pleural mesothelioma include unexplained weight loss, shortness of breath, cough and fatigue, among other things. These symptoms are characteristic of a variety of ailments, which is why pleural mesothelioma often goes undiagnosed until it has spread throughout a person's chest cavity and body. Long latency periods and the fact that mesothelioma is so difficult to diagnose are why many similar mesothelioma actions are pursued as wrongful death actions by surviving family members.
One of the central allegations in the Los Angeles construction worker's lawsuit was that the defendants in the case participated in the Asbestos Textile Institute and other asbestos industry organizations that actively suppressed information regarding the dangers of asbestos products. The construction worker alleged that the asbestos companies were well aware that their products could cause mesothelioma, but actively sought to hide this information from consumers.
The companies are all successors-in-interest to the asbestos companies that originally supplied the asbestos products to the construction worker's jobsites. This means that the companies inherited liability for the actions of their predecessor companies through purchases or mergers.
The jury's $48 million damage award was attributed to Union Carbide (65 percent), Kaiser Gypsum (20 percent), Riverside Cement (6 percent), Cal Portland (3 percent) and La Habra (1 percent).