Boilermaker Sues Twice for Asbestos Diseases

A family of a Texas man who worked as a boilermaker and general laborer has filed an asbestos-related lawsuit – the second such suit filed by the man and/or his family.

According to an article in the Southeast Texas Record, W.Z. Hutson filed his first claim several years ago, after developing an asbestos-related disease. Now, Hutson’s family is seeking compensation for a “different malignant asbestos-related injury,” which allegedly prematurely ended his life.

The suit was filed on April 3 against A.O. Smith Corporation and 67 other defendants. According to the plaintiff’s petition, the A.O. Smith Corp., along with the other companies named in the suit, “knowingly and maliciously manufactured and distributed asbestos-containing products throughout Jefferson County.” Their negligence resulted in Hutson developing malignant mesothelioma, an asbestos cancer for which there is no cure.

Some of the other defendants listed in the suit include aerospace giant Lockheed Martin and iron supplier Zurn Industries.

The suit alleges the defendants in the lawsuit were negligent for “failing to adequately test their asbestos-laced products before flooding the market with dangerous goods and for failing to warn the consumer of the dangers of asbestos exposure.”

In addition, the claim states that Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Corp. (3M Corporation) and American Optical Corp. are at fault for producing defective masks that failed to provide respiratory protection.

In the precedent-setting Pustejovsky vs. Rapid-American Corp. decision made in 2000, the Texas Supreme Court held that a victim of asbestos may later file a second lawsuit for an asbestos cancer if he develops the cancer at a future date, even though he/she has already sued and received compensation.

“The opinion overruled a long history of Texas cases holding that a person may only bring one lawsuit for an asbestos-related injury, even if he develops a second, catastrophic asbestos-related cancer at a much later date,” the article points out.

Asbestos Removal Concerns Neighbors

Brookline, Mass. residents who live near a church that’s planning to demolish a portion of its buildings are concerned that asbestos dust and fibers will spread throughout the neighborhood during the demolition process, despite reassurances that the work is being handled properly.

According to an article in the Brookline Tab, work crews began removing potentially hazardous asbestos from the St. Aidan’s site this week, but concerned neighbors say they want more information about the building’s impending demolition.

Over two days, workers wetted, removed and bagged asbestos-containing materials on the site as they prepared to tear down the church’s rectory and two garages, the article notes. Contractors expected to demolish the garages by the end of the week, with the rectory to follow.

Responding to the concerns, a builder affiliated with the archdiocese of Boston promised to update residents on their progress on a daily basis for the next two weeks. However, he refused to provide the precise demolition date when asked for that information.

“In construction, it’s very difficult to get a specific date, because you don’t know how fast the work is going to happen,” said developer David Armitage of the Planning Office for Urban Affairs.

But some neighbors weren’t satisfied. Freeman Street resident Susan Feinstein said she wanted to know when demolition would start so she could get her family out of the area.

“I don’t want, 20 to 30 years from now, for the children to come down with cancer,” she said.
Project managers said they would cover the work area with drapes and noted that workers would be equipped with personal air monitors so that work would stop if asbestos fibers reach an unacceptable level.

Lexy Winter, a Boston University student who lives on Crowninshield Road, said that was not enough. She asked that the developer inform neighbors immediately if asbestos is detected in the air.
“I would want to know if it’s at a level where you need to stop,” she said.

Several neighbors asked the developers to limit demolition work to school hours to minimize contact with students. However, Director of Environmental Health Pat Maloney said there was no cause for concern and certainly no need to evacuate during demolition.

“We have a lot of this going on — we don’t have people vacating neighborhoods because of this,” he said.

Asbestos Insurance Costs Climbing

A recent study by Sebago Associates commissioned by the American Insurance Association, notes that outlays for asbestos claims total $54 billion, and most analysts believe that the number of claimants and total payouts will continue to rise during the next several years.

According to an article in the Ann Arbor Business Review, Tillinghast-Towers Perrin, an actuarial consulting firm, projects that 1.1 million claims will eventually be filed, with the total cost to defendants and insurers amounting to $200 billion. Milliman USA, another actuarial consulting firm, also forecasts about 1.1 million total cumulative claims, but it projects higher total costs of $275 billion.
The article notes that 1.3 million individuals who work in the construction industry are still exposed to asbestos on a regular basis. This includes drywall hangers, pipe fitters, carpenters and those in building demolition and remodeling.

“We still have homes, offices, hospitals with asbestos; we have underground infrastructure, sewers and tunnels that are built with asbestos,” said Linda Reinstein, executive director and co-founder of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, and keynote speaker at the ADAO Asbestos Awareness conference in Detroit in late March.

Local Ann Arbor physician, Dr. George Riegel, quit practicing medicine several years ago after touting the dangers of asbestos and opened Asbestos Removal Technology in Southfield, Mich. He also started another business, Healthy Homes Inc., an environmental inspection and remediation business.

“It’s in thousands, if not millions, of homes; it’s in most homes built before 1978, in asbestos floor tiles, steam pipe insulation, the old gravity furnace octopus ducts and in vermiculite in attic insulation,” said Riegel, who also participated in the conference, which was co-sponsored by the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute and ADAO.