Mesothelioma Patient Stories:
Record Win in Asbestos Exposure Wrongful Death Suit
One of the difficulties in treating malignant mesothelioma is the latent nature of the rare asbestos cancer. Mesothelioma can take anywhere from 20 to 50 years to fully develop and become symptomatic after initial exposure to asbestos. As such, patients diagnosed with mesothelioma are often surprised to learn that they have developed the fatal disease after so many years.
One such mesothelioma victim learned of his development of the disease approximately 35 years after having been initially exposed to asbestos. The patient worked for Northrop Grumman Newport News in Virginia where he was routinely faced with exposure to asbestos for a period of four years. He noted that asbestos shavings consistently littered the floor and that asbestos fibers blanketed the air. Even after learning of the potential health hazards associated with asbestos exposure some 20 years later, the victim never gave his past exposure a second thought that is, until 2005 when, at 59, he was diagnosed with a case of malignant pleural mesothelioma.
Malignant mesothelioma is the most serious of a number of diseases caused by asbestos exposure. Mesothelioma presents as one of three distinct types:
- pleural mesothelioma (affecting the pleural membrane lining the lungs)
- peritoneal mesothelioma (affecting the peritoneal membrane lining the abdomen)
- pericardial mesothelioma (affecting the pericardial membrane lining the heart)
Mesothelioma has thus far proven to be an incurable asbestos disease, typically causing death within two years of diagnosis.
The man in question led a relatively healthy life during which he never succumbed to any real health scares. When he suddenly developed a slew of symptoms surrounding his lungs (fatigue, dyspnea, chest pain), his doctor assumed that he was suffering from pneumonia. While conducting a patient history, it was discovered that the patient had worked with asbestos for more than four years, making malignant mesothelioma a prime suspect. Chest imaging scans revealed tumor growths on and around the man's lungs. After a histopathological examination confirmed suspicions, he was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma.
Pleural mesothelioma life expectancy is short, and sadly this case was no exception. The victim died within a year of his mesothelioma diagnosis at the age of 60. Following his death, the man's wife contacted a mesothelioma attorney to discuss filing suit against the companies responsible for her husband's hazardous exposure to asbestos. The three companies targeted by the wrongful death mesothelioma lawsuit filed by the woman's mesothelioma lawyer included John Crane Inc. (maker of asbestos-based sealing products), Johns Manville Corp. (maker of asbestos-based roofing, insulation and industrial materials), and Garlock Sealing Technologies (maker of asbestos-based sealing products). Although the companies had all fazed out use of asbestos within their products, it was determined that they still faced liability for pre-regulation occupational asbestos exposures.
While working at Northrop Grumman Newport News, the man revealed that he conformed with all the safety precautions that he was provided with / informed of. These included the wearing of a hard-hat, safety goggles and steel-toed boots. What he was not provided with was a dust mask that could have limited his inhalation of stray asbestos fibers. While the companies refused to accept liability in the man's death, a Newport News jury found otherwise, awarding his widow with the largest single wrongful death verdict in Newport News history: $10.4 million.
While the malignant mesothelioma victim's wife is thankful for the verdict, it does little to compensate her for the loss of her husband something no amount of money will ever replace. One thing she can take solace in is the fact that the liable parties are finally being held accountable. Johns Crane Inc. faces more than 100 claims from similar families who have suffered at the hands of the company's negligence.
» More Mesothelioma Stories
[Page updated August 2009]