Asbestos litigation is a direct, necessary result to the debilitating diseases caused by asbestos such as pleural, peritoneal, and pericardial mesothelioma. The seriousness of the disease has led plaintiffs to seek and demand more information from their employers regarding the dangers of asbestos.
Early Stages of Asbestos Lawsuits
Though the dangers of asbestos is widely known today, that was not always the case. Although the dangers of asbestos exposure gained awareness since the 1930’s, mesothelioma litigation did not really take off until 1980’s. In the early stages of litigation, the major focus was placed on non-malignant cases, including asbestosis and chest cavity scarring. These early lawsuits involved various workers including pipe insulators and shipyard and construction workers. At the time, mesothelioma and asbestos cancer lawsuits only comprised a small number of total claims.
Later Stages of Lawsuits
The amount of litigation claims filed by people who were exposed to asbestos increased significantly between the 1980’s and the 2000’s. People began turning to tort litigation instead of worker’s compensation claims which as aimed for individuals with work-related, treatable injuries- not complicated occupational diseases. Through tort litigation, individuals could seek legal reparations from the companies who exposed them to dangerous asbestos.
Complete Timeline of Mesothelioma History
For a more in depth look at the history of litigation, please refer to the timeline below:
1908: The Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) is enacted into U.S. federal law. This act helped to protect and compensate individuals in the railroad occupation who were injured while working.
1926: The first successful compensation claim by an ill asbestos worker was settled without a trial and processed by the Massachusetts Industrial Accidents Board.
1932: The first disability award is given to a maintenance worker in a federal hospital after an asbestosis claim is filed.
1935: Officials at Johns Manville and Raybestos-Manhattan order the editors of the magazine Asbestos to publish nothing about asbestosis.
1936: Numerous asbestos companies sponsor research on the health effects of asbestos, but agree to have complete control over the disclosure of the results.
1938: The United States adopts a “safe” dust limit of 176 particles of asbestos per cubic centimeter within the workplace.
1943: Asbestos companies are highly aware of the health risks associated with asbestos.
1952: The medical director at Johns Manville recommends warnings labels be attached to all products containing asbestos. His recommendation is unsuccessful.
1960: An epidemiological study confirms the causal relationship between asbestos exposure and mesothelioma.
1969: Johns-Manville pays $1 million in worker compensation.
1971: Asbestos becomes the first single substance regulated as a human health hazard by OSHA under the authority of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
1972: A large portion of mesothelioma and asbestos-related disease diagnoses come from U.S. veterans of WWII.
1973: The first major asbestos lawsuit is won by an insulation worker.
1977: The Sumner Simpson Papers are introduced. These were hidden documents containing efforts by large corporations to cover up the health hazards of asbestos.
1982: Johns-Manville files for bankruptcy.
1982: 1,000 asbestos claims are filed by 300 law firms, totaling $1 billion spent by defendants.
1988: The Manville Personal Injury Settlement Trust opens. It was designed to handle most of the asbestos liabilities.
1989: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) bans many asbestos products.
1991: The EPA’s ban on asbestos products is overturned. Some products are allowed, while products such as flooring, felt, rollboard and asbestos paper are banned.
1994: Mesothelioma is recognized as a disease by the World Health Organization (WHO)
1999: The United Kingdom (UK) bans asbestos.
2001: Two hijacked planes fly into the World Trade Center Twin Towers, resulting in their collapse; asbestos dust and debris form a cloud of smoke and stretch for blocks across the city.
2002: 730,000 asbestos claims are filed by 8,400 law firms totaling $70 billion from defendants.
2003: The largest asbestos verdict, $250 million, is awarded to a single plaintiff.
2011: Mining of asbestos in Canada is stopped.
2012: Two asbestos tycoons, Stephan Schidheiny and Jean-Louis de Cartier go to prison for negligence from 2,200 asbestos-related deaths.