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Asbestos: Businesses Are Open to Wrongful Blame

Posted January 21, 2014 12:00 AM by CR4 Guest Author

About Asbestos

Asbestos-related diseases account for approximately 4,500 deaths each year. More often than not, a person will contract one of the four main diseases that are caused by a person being exposed to asbestos: Mesothelioma (always fatal), lung cancer (nearly always fatal), asbestosis (which can cause severe disability), and diffuse pleural thickening (not fatal).

Asbestos is an extremely dangerous element to be exposed to and no person should be subjected to it without the correct protection and safety awareness. Unfortunately, it can take 40 years or more in some cases for asbestos exposure to become apparent.

Asbestos is everywhere, even in the environment and the air that we breathe everyday; however, this is only a very small amount and is not at a high enough level to cause harm to peoples health.

Identifying Asbestos Related Diseases

Unfortunately, there are cases where people have come into contact with asbestos and often, a result of neglect and a complete ignorance toward the safety of people and their health. Rightfully, people that have suffered as a result of being exposed to asbestos unlawfully do make claims against the company in question.

However, there are now and again claims that are 'iffy' to say the least and that are difficult to prove whether or not that a person's symptoms are because they have been exposed to asbestos. This can lead to businesses, institutions and companies being open to wrongful blame. For example, if a person has smoked for 30-40 years and develops lung cancer, but have worked for several years in a building built prior to the 1990's, that person could still make a claim against a company on the grounds of being exposed to asbestos.

On the other hand, if a person did smoke for several years and was subjected to asbestos due to a business being neglectful and was diagnosed with an 'asbestos related' disease, this could be difficult for a person to prove that it's because of the business being neglectful and not because of smoking. This can make cases very tricky and therefore, difficult for judges to come to the right decision.

Asbestos Litigation

The owner of premises has a duty to ensure that asbestos is not a hazard to workers and/or people visiting the premises. In some cases, there is more than one owner; however, this does not diminish their responsibility of keeping in line with health and safety regulations.

Asbestos litigation has become extremely complicated over the last couple of decades. Prior to the 1990's, there were many cases whereby people who were not sick as a result of asbestos were paying doctors to diagnose them with asbestosis, which resulted in many businesses having to pay out a lot of money and in some cases bankrupted them. Nowadays, there has to be a certain criteria in order for a person to prove they have contracted an asbestos related disease, for example, Mesothelioma.

However, who's not to say that the asbestos scam between patients, doctors and lawyers is not still taking place? But then again, there are those who are legitimately trying to claim against the party who are responsible for asbestos exposure.

There's another issue for those making legitimate claims: because asbestos takes years to appear when a person has been exposed to it, what if the person or business responsible has either passed away or the business has completely packed up or gone bust?


Editor's Note: Richard, the author of this article has worked in the health and safety industry for years gaining vast experience and knowledge of the industry and currently specialises in asbestos and related topics.

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#1

Re: Asbestos: Businesses Are Open to Wrongful Blame

01/21/2014 6:34 AM

We need, (across the board), tort reform in this country. It won't happen, as long as so many of our politicians are also lawyers.

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Re: Asbestos: Businesses Are Open to Wrongful Blame

01/21/2014 10:45 PM

To the Editor: why did you allow this article to go unedited? It is your job to prevent an unedited article from being published, just as it is the responsibility of the business owner to protect employees and customers from asbestos exposure, sickness, and diseases. Do you need a good lawyer?

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Re: Asbestos: Businesses Are Open to Wrongful Blame

01/22/2014 12:59 AM

I tend to agree both with you and kramarat. The article gives the impression of having been written by a lawyer looking for more business. I'm convinced that the billions of dollars spent removing asbestos from schools and businesses would have provided significantly more benefit had they been spent on educational lab equipment, computers, etc., and perhaps a bit of sealing of the already-in-place asbestos.

That small fraction of asbestos that was indeed dangerous, was only dangerous to those who regularly breathed the fibers during installation and especially removal (and of course to the miners and producers).

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Re: Asbestos: Businesses Are Open to Wrongful Blame

01/22/2014 4:35 AM

It is interesting that all compensation for asbestos claims comes from the asbestos manufacturers. Non is derived from the architectural and engineering firms that specified it's use, or from the firms that ordered the (at the time) cheapest method of insulating their pipes or cladding their buildings.

When asbestos was developed as a building material and for many years after it came into use, the risks to health were unknown. This is one of the few cases where firms have been held responsible retrospectively for actions that were considered safe at the time. Generally our legislators take the very reasonable view that an offense can only committed after it is established that the action is an offense.

Much of the asbestos used in insulation has been replaced by fibrerglass, which when carelessly handled or vibrated breaks down into fine glass particulates. If breathed in more than minor quantity the glass particulates seriously scare the lining of the lungs. This is widely known and workers are required to wear breathing masks when installing fibreglass. A case of jumping from the frying pan into the fire. Will we see fibreglass manufacturers in the future facing claims for lung related diseases and deaths?

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Re: Asbestos: Businesses Are Open to Wrongful Blame

01/22/2014 8:14 AM

Asbestos is a Mineral, not an element.

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Re: Asbestos: Businesses Are Open to Wrongful Blame

01/22/2014 9:28 AM

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Re: Asbestos: Businesses Are Open to Wrongful Blame
I have cancer.

Fairly certain it was caused by asbestos.

It is VERY difficult to prove cause.

Because it is socialist Canada, I don't pay for Chemo Therapy

But it is VERY expensive even so.

I pay a lot of it (my blood thinners alone cost half a thousand a month)...but the load on our economy is intense.

The reason it is not collapsing our economy is because the money is mostly going things that stay IN Canada. Doctors and Nurses (hundreds of them!) get paid very good money to stay here and treat Canadian Patients. They pay taxes and purchase meals at the cafeteria, and buy nice cars. Chemo drugs are mostly made in Canada. So the money flows right back into the Bank of Canada.

If I somehow got a pension from the military for my cancer exposure, same deal. Money from my economy is going into the Federal economy. No pain on their part!

That being said, to successfully win a lawsuit against a company is just as hard here as it is in the States. Maybe harder. The only thing the "socialist" state does is prevent litigants from hitting the offenders with their chemotherapy costs. This means that lawsuits against companies in Canada are often much smaller, and more focused. May I say, even more affordable? So the much maligned "socialist" state of Canada is keeping businesses from being bankrupted by their own negligence.

Some businesses, like Canadian Pacific, and Canadian National railways abuse this system...but they are so big that Members of Parliament can control litigation and even liability. The Prime Minister, a few decades ago, for instance, owned Canada Steamship Lines. Is this a confllict of interest? Is this a problem? Ask the residents of Lac Megantic.

Of course it is a problem. But we Canadians work very hard to SOLVE those problems. Senate reform is on the table again, and Rob Ford's Handlers have him under control again. The Auditor General is my hero.

I "think" this mini essay is on topic. If not, please feel free to knock it down.

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Re: Asbestos: Businesses Are Open to Wrongful Blame

01/22/2014 2:59 PM

Yes, we need to protect the public. The best way to do this is by trying to be fair. I think their needs to be some serious legal reform to at least US court system. Currently, anyone with any expertise in a court case subject matter is excluded as a juror. The ideal juror is a stupid ignoramus! Both sides of the courtroom hope they can influence a stupid and ignorant the jury with rhetoric and a smile. That is not justice! If all the jurors were required to have some sort of expertise to understand the technical issues of the case and would have the ability to ask questions, the results ought to be more just. That would put an end to malpractice cases where the Dr in question didn't even see the patient because the symptoms had nothing to do which his specialty. I know of a case where that happened. You wouldn't have legal firms hunting for persons that took a medication before it was clear the medication increased your chance of cancer. I suspect there would have been lawsuits even if it was unclear the drug was responsible. The problem was so slight the drug was nearly going generic by the time the connection was made. The reality is, if a drug 'saves' 1,000,000 lives and kills 1,000 the 1,000 will sue. As a result of our willingness to litigate drugs in the US cost about 30% more than Canada to cover the extra liability.

Maybe the lawyers might actually be forced to go after the wrongful party instead of who has the biggest wallet. When that happens, we might see more prevention. I believe companies that harm the pubic are culpable and far more if that company was aware of the risks. I do not think 30% of the companies worth is a fair settlement since that will ruin them but 20% might be OK for the worst cases. I think the highest level of management that knew about the issue ought to get jail time since the public always pays for the settlement not the decision maker.

This goes for any bad decision that harms the public or seriously impacts the environment such as the oil well leak in the gulf.

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Re: Asbestos: Businesses Are Open to Wrongful Blame

01/24/2014 7:35 AM

Good answer. Is it really that bad? I know some medication is a lot cheaper in Canada, but there are plenty which are not.

We here in Canada also have a system in which you cannot get medication of some kinds except by prescription. I noted on my last trip to the US that much of my medications are available "over the counter" and were consequently cheaper. Also they were cheaper because I did not have to pay the pharmacist his filling fee.

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Re: Asbestos: Businesses Are Open to Wrongful Blame

01/24/2014 9:49 AM

Generics ought to be about the same since there is no liability on them. I have heard bitter complaints about that in the US. They wanted to sue the original producer even though the victim took generic drugs. I see that as suing the previous owner of a car in a crash since the owner who was in the crash was poor and there was no money to be had.

Wieth Labs went belly up over Fen-fen. They were bought up by a company that the cash to pay out the billions in reparations.

Each country has their own maze to get over the counter status. I do not know if the manufacturer thinks over the counter is a good thing.

Both the US and CA use a court system created in England when most persons couldn't read. They need to be revised to something fair. I think anyone giving testimony in court ought to be wired to a lie detector. Just because they don't work on delusional psychopaths doesn't mean they are worthless. Any time a lab is used the state needs to make available statistics as to how accurate the lab actually is. This way the rich can't get off so easily by sending in 100 'test samples' and only making public the errors. The jurors will know up front how reliable the test results are. As things stand now the poor get convicted much easier than the rich.

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