Asbestos-related diseases have caused great commotion in the recent years in the United States. Nevertheless, asbestos has been in the spotlight for many years. The bad use of Asbestos by different manufacturers and its consequences on the health of numerous workers from those industries have resulted in long and expensive investigations and legal battles.
On December 10, 1966, the first lawsuit against asbestos products was filed in Texas. Mr. Claude Tomplait was diagnosed with asbestosis and his lawyer, Ward Stephenson, took care of the case. They filed against many manufacturers of asbestos products, among them there was Johns-Manville, Fiberboard and Owens Corning Fiberglass. On May 12, 1969, the verdict was dictated in favor of the defendants. Nevertheless, Stephenson was not defeated by this loss. In October 1969, he filed a case for one of Mr.Tomplait?s co-workers. He named numerous asbestos manufacturers, and they won the case. The court stated a compensation for them in the amount of $79,436.24. Mr. Stephenson died in September 7, 1973. However, his successful labor against asbestos manufacturers became popular all over the United States, and in that same year, many asbestos lawsuits were filed in different jurisdictions.
In 1974, another famous asbestosis case was filed. Reba Rudkin, who had worked during 29 years at the Johns-Manville manufacturing plant, developed asbestosis. His lawyer, Steven Kazan sued the manufacturer in a civil lawsuit. This case took many years in the court. In one of the depositions, which took place in January 1978, Wilbur Ruff (the plant manager in the 60?s), testified that there was a policy within the company which stated that managers ?must not talk to the employees about chest findings, findings that suggested asbestosis, pneumoconiosis or mesothelioma?. This policy was popularly recognized as the ?hush hush policy?. From that moment on, the purpose of Kazan was to prove conspiracy and fraud.
As the legal process kept on going, more and more evidence of fraud and conspiracy was found. Several documents from the 30?s stated that ever since then, Mr. Vandiver Brown, the General Counsel of Johns-Manville at that moment, plotted to suppress all evident knowledge about the risks and dangers of asbestos. Due to the evidence and testimonies presented, the Court dictated verdict in favor of Kazan and his client.
After the victory in the Rudkin case, Steven Kazan managed many more claims from Rudkin?s co-workers. In 1982, the attorney obtained the amount of $150,000 in a compensation for one of his clients against Johns-Manville. This specific case was considered quite an important outset in the asbestos litigation. Thanks to it, many workers were now not only fighting for their rights but also for a fair compensation. Nevertheless, Johns-Manville filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection so that they would not have to pay compensation to the increasing number of patients of asbestos-related diseases.
Unfortunately, many other asbestos companies that were facing similar lawsuits also went into the bankruptcy courts. By the late 80?s, the entire asbestos industry was declared in bankruptcy.
Along with it, asbestos-related diseases were also changing their patterns. Initially, most victims of asbestos disease were ex-workers from asbestos mines and factories. Then, the majority of victims were people who worked at sites where asbestos products were installed. Asbestos litigation cases were constantly changing as injured people filed different lawsuit based on the exposure at shipyards (mainly during World War II), railroads, refineries and power plants. Later on, a third group of injured people appeared: workers from the construction industry. They were exposed to products like textures, drywalls and fireproofing sprays.
Also, many other defendants were mentioned into litigation: contractors, distributors, and owner of premises such as power plants. In 1985, a former Firm principal obtained a victory against Johns-Manville?s helper, Raybestos Manhattan. A verdict of $2 million in favor of an 81 year old retired brake mechanic who was facing the last stages of a malignant mesothelioma cancer was obtained. It was the first verdict against an asbestos brake lining manufacturer.
On the following years, asbestos-related litigation cases emerged in many and variable directions. Asbestosis as well as mesothelioma patients have discovered many more fatal consequences that worsen their health; therefore, they have to run against time in order to obtain fair legal outcomes to their lawsuits. Millions of dollars are involved in these lawsuits; therefore, battles within the courtrooms will get quite difficult most of the times. Nevertheless, if in past decades fair outcomes were achieved, mesothelioma victims still have chances to prove their cases right.