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The U.S. Supreme Court in Kurns, et al. v. Railroad Friction Products Corp., et al., has decided in favor of a railroad company that reportedly failed to warn its workers of the dangers of working with asbestos.
Kurns, et al. v. Railroad Friction Products Corp., et al., has decided in favor of a railroad company that reportedly failed to warn its workers of the dangers of working with asbestos.
Our mesothelioma attorneys understand the case focused on a retired railroad welder and machinist, who died after filing suit against his former employer. The worker, George Corson, died of mesothelioma cancer, caused by exposure to asbestos decades earlier. He had alleged in his suit that not only were the products he worked with dangerous, but his employer failed to warn him of those dangers.
Corson’s widow, Gloria Kurns, had taken over the case when her husband died.
According to the claim, Corson worked at the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railroad company for more than a quarter century, between 1947 and 1974. He worked in maintenance and locomotive repair. Mostly, he installed brakeshoes on the trains and stripped the insulation from the boilers.
Nearly 30 years after he stopped working with the company, he was diagnosed with cancerous mesothelioma. This is a rare cancer that essentially attacks the thin layer of cells that lines the internal organs. There are three types – one that attacks the lungs, one that attacks the heart and one that attacks the abdomen.
Medical experts have determined that exposure to asbestos, often by ingesting air particles, is known to cause cancer, and mesothelioma in particular. As in Corson’s case, the damage is typically not apparent until many years down the road. By then, it’s too late, and patients often have less than a year to live.
Corson was diagnosed in 2005, and filed suit in Pennsylvania in 2007. The suit went after 59 defendants, including Railroad Friction Products Corporation (RFPC). This is the company that distributed the brakeshoes that contained the asbestos. Another company, Viad Corp., sold trains and train engine valves that also contained asbestos. Corson said not only were these products dangerous, but he was never given any warning of that danger.
The defendants in the case argued that they shouldn’t be held liable because the claims against violating state law were pre-empted by the Locomotive Inspection Act, which essentially prohibits railroad carriers from using any parts that aren’t safe or government-tested. Prior to that, in early 1900s, Congress had passed the Ash Pan Act and the Boiler Inspection Act, which outlined certain railroad safety conditions.
The railroad company, after having the case successfully moved from state to federal court, was backed in decisions by both the appellate and Supreme court. In a dissenting opinion, one justice said the company may not have been responsible for completely banning the brakeshoes, but it could have at the very least given railroad workers certain tools, such as masks, to safely handle the materials.
Thankfully, the law has changed dramatically in the last 50 years with regard to how we use and handle asbestos. Although a commonly-used product at the turn of the century, it is now rarely if ever used. There are also very specific laws in how it must be disposed of.
If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or think you may have been exposed to asbestos, contact an experienced mesothelioma attorney. As this ruling illustrates, these are complex cases and holding companies responsible decades later requires a firm with the knowledge, experience and resources that comes with focusing on justice for mesothelioma victims.
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Frequently Asked Questions: Mesothelioma & Asbestos
What is asbestos?
Asbestos is a carcinogenic, naturally occurring fibrous mineral. Known for its heat resistance and durability, asbestos has historically been used in insulation, construction materials, automotive parts, and shipbuilding materials.
Why is asbestos dangerous?
Asbestos is made up of small shard-like fibers that can easily become airborne when disturbed. If inhaled or ingested, these fibers can embed within the lining of the lungs, heart, stomach, or testes where they can cause cancer to form years or decades later.
What are asbestos-related diseases?
Asbestos exposure can cause mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer.
What causes mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is an aggressive and incurable form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Unfortunately, symptoms of mesothelioma may not appear until decades after exposure.
What are the different types of mesothelioma?
Three of the most common types of mesothelioma are pleural mesothelioma, peritoneal mesothelioma, and pericardial mesothelioma.
What are common mesothelioma symptoms?
Common symptoms of mesothelioma include difficulty breathing and chest pains. Peritoneal mesothelioma, which affects the stomach, may cause abdominal swelling, loss of appetite, constipation, abdominal pain, and nausea.
Do I qualify for compensation if I have mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a preventable form of cancer most commonly caused by asbestos exposure. If you were exposed to asbestos while serving in the U.S. military or while working in construction, mechanics, or a similar field, you may be eligible for compensation. Contact The Ferraro Law Firm for a free legal consultation.
What is the life expectancy for someone with mesothelioma?
There is no cure for mesothelioma. However, patients can receive treatments for mesothelioma that may extend their initial prognosis with proper treatment. Those diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma usually have a life expectancy that is greater than three years, though a large part of this depends on the stage the patient is diagnosed. The earlier the diagnosis, the longer the life expectancy and chance of long-term survival.
Do I qualify for compensation if I have mesothelioma?
If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you should immediately seek long-term medical treatment. After that, you should contact our firm to examine your legal rights. Since 1985, The Ferraro Law Firm has represented individuals with asbestos-related diseases and pursued fair compensation on their behalf. Our firm is one of the top five law firms in the U.S. handling mesothelioma and asbestos cases.
The Ferraro Law Firm provides comprehensive legal services, including mesothelioma legal help. Call (888) 554-2030 for a free and confidential consultation. Offices in Miami, Washington, D.C., and New York City.
Kurns, et al. v. Railroad Friction Products Corp., et al., Justia