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No matter how aggressively defendant asbestos manufacturers try to argue that Chrysotile asbestos doesn’t cause mesothelioma – they’re wrong.
Our mesothelioma lawyers understand the best example of this defense involved a consortium of three joint compound firms who made the case during an estimation hearing in their Chapter 11 bankruptcies. Each of the companies – Bondex International Inc., Specialty Products Holding Corp., and RPM International – filed bankruptcy as they faced thousands of asbestos injury and wrongful death claims.
An estimation hearing is one in which a judge will determine how much money the companies must set aside to meet their liability to cover current and future asbestos claims. Debtors say they will only need about $30 million, while plaintiff attorneys say it is likely to be closer to $55 million.
Part of closing that disparity involves figuring out to what extent the defendants can be expected to be found liable for each claim, which is why the home improvement products firms are attempting to argue that the asbestos their goods contained wasn’t actually all that dangerous.
This is not the first time we’ve heard the argument about Chrysotile asbestos being somehow safer than other forms, and it probably won’t be the last. Chrysotile asbestos, sometimes called white asbestos, accounts for roughly 95 percent of the asbestos present in the U.S., according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Despite a slightly differing chemical make-up from the amphibole group of asbestos, it is no less dangerous – a fact repeatedly underscored in numerous studies. Most recently, a professor of occupational epidemiology at the University of Wisconsin conducted a study last year, concluding definitively, “Chrysotile asbestos, along with all other types of asbestos, has caused mesothelioma, and a worldwide ban of all asbestos is warranted to stop an epidemic of mesothelioma.”
Yet the defendants in the bankruptcy case brought a medical doctor specializing in epidemiology to testify that Chrysotile asbestos is “much less likely” to cause mesothelioma, a long-latent and fatal cancer. He testified that in most cases, Chrysotile asbestos in and of itself will not cause mesothelioma.
It is noteworthy that the doctor didn’t actually view any of the lung tissue samples of mesothelioma plaintiffs even though he testified that if he had, he suspected he would find more than Chrysotile asbestos present.
Plaintiffs, however, brought their own medical doctor specializing in occupational medicine. She testified that there is no question that Chrysotile exposure leads to cancer of the lining of the lung. She knows this because she personally conducted multiple studies of sheet metal workers in the 1990s, concluding hands-down that Chrysotile asbestos can and does cause mesothelioma.
She said this point has been “very well established.”
At this, the defense put forth another common defense, that of “safe level of exposure.” This was a tactic in which they asserted plaintiffs couldn’t possibly have contracted mesothelioma from their product alone. Their joint compound products were manufactured for do-it-yourself renovation projects. They argued that these were not cases in which people would have been exposed to the asbestos day-in, day-out over the course of several years.
However, as the plaintiff’s epidemiologist correctly pointed out, there is, in fact, no safe level of exposure.
Help for mesothelioma victims can be found at The Ferraro Law Firm by calling (888) 554-2030. Offices in Miami, Washington, D.C., and New York City.
Bondex expert testifies ‘Chrysotile’ joint compound not likely cause of mesothelioma, Jan. 8, 2013, By Jon Campisi, Legal Newsline Legal Journal
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