Tue 29 Nov 2011
There are two ways people file claims against asbestos manufacturers: individually or as a class. Individual claims are regular legal suits. An individual is claiming harm done by the defendant and the case goes through normal channels. Class action lawsuits are another way people seek compensation for diseases related to asbestos exposure. In these cases, the plaintiffs are not suing as individuals. They are suing as a class of people going after a specific defendant for harm done to everyone in the class. In the case of asbestos litigation, an example of this type of suit is a group of employees suing their employer for asbestos exposure.
Some states allow asbestos class action suits and others do not. Here are three of the top class action cases related to asbestos:
- Amchem Products Inc v. Windsor
- W.R. Grace & Company
- Libby, Montana
The important aspect of this case came in an effort to settle the asbestos legal claims on 20 different asbestos manufacturers. These parties had formed a group known as the Center for Claims Resolution. The idea of the CCR was to provide a compensation structure for existing and future claimants. The problem came though because the settlement structure was inadequate for future litigation. The fund setup set amounts for settlement of cases. There were no provisions for inflation or changes in medical understanding. The Supreme Court held that this class action settlement was not legal.
In 2008, W.R. Grace & Company settled a class action lawsuit over its Zonolite insulation products. Zonolite itself contained vermiculite as its primary ingredient. Vermiculite is not the problem. The mine from which W.R. Grace extracted the vermiculite was also the home of a particularly nasty form of asbestos. This insulation product went into millions of homes all around the United States.
At the same time they settled the claims on the Zonolite products, W. R. Grace & Co also settled a class-action lawsuit brought on behalf of the people of Libby, Montana. That is the place where vermiculite mining brought up asbestos levels. In that case, the workers in the mine had exposure to the asbestos fibers every day. They brought those fibers home in their clothing and other personal items. Many homes and businesses in the area had large amounts of asbestos from these miners and the mining operation. Today, one in seven people around Libby have some level of scarring due to asbestos exposure. Many have died as a result of the damage it caused. The EPA is still working to clean up the area around the mine and the Libby community.
There are tons of other class-action lawsuits on the books regarding mesothelioma and asbestos. All of it comes down to the fact that the asbestos industry knew about the dangers of asbestos for decades. They did not protect their workers. They did not protect the public. All of that was in the name of monetary gains. That action alone is why over 600,000 people have filed asbestos related law suits since the 1970s. The number of claims continues to grow year to year. With so many possible points of exposure, class action lawsuits are difficult to prove. Nevertheless, many have had success. Having a good attorney at your side makes a big difference.
Lawrence Reaves writes about lawsuits for mesothelioma and sarcomatoid mesothelioma. He gets his ideas and inspiration from asbestosnews.com. This article was written by a guest author. Would you like to, submit a guest blog post?