Pietro Macaluso was a construction worker who spent years doing demolition work in single-family homes in Brooklyn, but it was only when he was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma at the age of 55 that he was made aware that his work had exposed him to the deadly mineral asbestos. A year later, he had died, leaving behind a girlfriend and his 11-year-old twins. This week a Manhattan jury decided that three boiler manufacturers were negligent in their failure to warn the public of the dangers hidden in their asbestos-contaminated equipment, and ordered that those companies pay the worker’s estate compensation in the amount of $60 million.
Imagine millions of people who use one of the world’s most trusted products finding out that it has caused both malignant mesothelioma and ovarian cancer. That is exactly what is happening, as Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder is being named in multiple lawsuits around the country. The most recent of these cases was heard in a New Jersey courtroom, where a jury hearing the plight of 46-year-old Stephen Lanzo first awarded him and his wife $37 million in compensatory damages, and then another $80 million in punitive damages meant specifically to punish the consumer giant for their negligence.
Though the majority of cases of malignant mesothelioma in the United States have been linked to workplace exposure to asbestos, that does not mean that exposure to the carcinogen in an occupational setting is the only way that you can get the disease. There have also been many instances of people being exposed as a result of asbestos in their environment, including within the walls of their own homes in the form of asbestos-contaminated insulation in homes build prior to the 1980s. It has been estimated that there are as many as 30 million houses and residential buildings that are affected in this way, and up until now there has been no good way of determining which they are, but now a new hand-held device created by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)may hold the answer to that problem.
When you think of a person being diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, you imagine that their exposure to asbestos came from years of factory or construction work or from contaminated insulation in their workplace — not from a household product. But a New Jersey jury hearing a lawsuit filed against Johnson & Johnsons has determined that’s exactly what happened to 46-year-old Stephen Lanzo. After 30 years of using the consumer giant’s baby powder or Shower to Shower talc product, the banker has been diagnosed with the rare and deadly form of cancer, and he submitted evidence showing that it was because the talc in the powder was contaminated by asbestos. The jury has awarded Lanzo and his wife $37 million in compensatory damages, and is currently considering assigning punitive damages as well.
Mesothelioma is widely thought of as a disease that afflicts those working in industrial and construction settings or in the Armed Forces — try to picture a mesothelioma victim and you likely picture a factory worker, a shipyard worker, or a Naval veteran. But a trial that’s been going on in a New Jersey courtroom for the last several weeks turns that idea on its head, and is striking fear in consumers all across the country: a 46-year-old banker diagnosed with the rare and fatal form of cancer is suing pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson, claiming that there was asbestos in its iconic baby powder and that it was responsible for his illness.
A young family’s attempts to save money on a home renovation project may lead to sleepless nights ahead, as they recently learned that they and their young children were exposed to “a major asbestos spill” that could eventually lead to mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases.
An 81-year-old woman suffering from stage IV asbestos-related lung cancer got the same type of ill treatment at the hands of an asbestos company that is experienced by many mesothelioma victims. Fortunately, the judge overseeing the case stepped in and blocked the motion filed by Metalclad Insulation LLC, offering the elderly victim of asbestos exposure the opportunity to have her day in court.
Like mesothelioma, asbestosis and asbestos-related lung cancer are caused by exposure to asbestos, and in this case Ardella Fox had been exposed to the carcinogenic material over fifty years earlier, between 1954 and 1963. She filed a lawsuit against 18 different parties and asked for an expedited court date based on both her advanced age and dire medical condition, and all parties but one agreed to her request: Metalclad Insulation had successfully argued that there was not basis for her request in front of a lower court, and Fox filed an appeal. Upon hearing of Mrs. Fox’s declining health and the complications she suffers as a result of her chemotherapy regimen, the judge in the case questioned Metalclad extensively about the basis of their argument, and upon hearing their answers cited state law showing that the case fit exactly into the requirements for expedited hearing as outlined by state law. He also scoffed at the company’s disputing the “veracity” of her symptoms and life expectancy, arguing, “If by way of opposition Metalclad had submitted, say, a photograph of 81-year-old Ms. Fox scuba-diving in the Galapagos Islands just last fall, there might be some basis to expect more medical detail, but on this record we see no genuine dispute that Ms. Fox is very sick.” He also pointed out that based on her own assertions and the assertions of her physician, “Her mental state has deteriorated to point where she becomes confused and forgetful. All told, the evidence shows that while Ms. Fox is currently able to participate in a trial, she has good reason for concern that will not be the case for much longer as her health deteriorates.”
As a result of her appeal of the lower court’s decision, Ms. Fox will be able to have her court date moved up. If you or someone you love has mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease and you need an advocate working on your behalf, contact us today at 1-800-966-2244.
Though it has been well established for decades that asbestos is the cause of malignant mesothelioma, the way that the condition actually takes hold within the body has remained a mystery. Scientists around the world have dedicated extraordinary amounts of time to working out this puzzle, as determining how the rare and deadly form of cancer forms is a vital step in future prevention, treatment, and a possible cure. Researchers have been particularly interested in how the tumors form in the mesothelial cells, which are a significant distance from the organs and cells that first come into contact with asbestos particles, and now a group of researchers from the University of Vermont’s Larner College of Medicine believe that they have found the key to the process.
Though asbestos companies like to argue that exposure to asbestos has to be over a very long period of time and at a heavy concentration to cause malignant mesothelioma, both scientists and real life situations have proven otherwise. Even a slight exposure to asbestos puts people at risk if its fibers are inhaled or ingested, and the results can be tragic, and heartbreaking. One such situation was recently revealed in the United Kingdom, where the wife of a bargeman who worked on the London Docks recently died of the rare and fatal form of cancer. It’s been determined that the asbestos exposure that caused her illness came from having laundered her husband’s work uniform after he came home each day: he had spent years transporting raw asbestos from ships to a nearby asbestos processing factory.
Living and working in St. Croix in the Virgin Islands may be as close to paradise as it gets, but there’s still a risk of exposure to asbestos, and therefore a concern about malignant mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. As is true the world over, many industrial sites in the Caribbean were originally constructed using asbestos and made use of the deadly material in their daily operations. Today many of those contaminated sites have been shut down, but where asbestos is still in place, it still poses a risk – especially when it is disturbed, as happened during hurricanes Irma and Maria last fall.