Mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos, and there are other forms of lung cancer that are also. Though most of the people who have been diagnosed with these diseases were exposed to the toxic substance on the job, that is not always the case. Some are wives and family members who were exposed to asbestos dust that their loved ones brought home on their clothes and skin. Some are people who lived close to asbestos processing plants and mills. And it is becoming increasingly apparent that some were sickened by asbestos in the filters of the cigarettes that they were smoking. Two recent court decisions have brought cigarettes’ deadly effects back into the public eye, and the people who have suffered are being awarded damages of several million dollars.
Both of these mesothelioma and asbestos lung cancer cases involved R.J. Reynolds Co., which manufactured Kent cigarettes. Kent famously introduced the Micronite filter, which contained crocidolite asbestos. The company called the filters the “Greatest health protection in history,” though they quickly discontinued its use after four years when worries about asbestos were raised. It was later proven that the crocidolite asbestos is the most dangerous of all six types of asbestos.
The first of the lawsuits was recently resolved by the state of California’s Court of Appeals. It had been filed by the widow of William E. Major, who was a two-pack-a-day smoker for almost 30 years. He was diagnosed with asbestos-related lung cancer in 1997 and died in 1998. The widow named several cigarette companies in her suit, and all but R.J. Reynolds settled. A jury hearing the case agreed that the company was partially liable for his death and awarded her $3.75 million in damages, and though the cigarette company appealed that verdict, it was upheld by the Court of Appeals.
The second of the cases involved a man diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma and was heard in the state of Florida. Richard DeLisle had smoked Kent cigarettes in the 1950s, and a jury hearing his lawsuit last year awarded him $8 million. This verdict was overturned on appeal based on arguments against some of the expert testimony that had been heard at trial, and now the Florida Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case. Mesothelioma advocates and victims will be watching closely.
People who smoked and have been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma or any other asbestos-related disease have long thought they were without legal eligibility, but these cases show that they may be entitled to compensation from the cigarette companies that exposed them to the carcinogenic material. For information on your legal rights whether you smoked or not, contact us at 1-800-966-2244.