Malignant mesothelioma is the deadliest of several diseases that are caused by exposure to asbestos. Others include asbestosis and asbestos-related lung cancer. Scientists have determined many incontrovertible facts about the impact of asbestos on the human body: among these is the fact that smoking cigarettes while at the same time exposed to asbestos exacerbates the impact of the carcinogen and makes it even more likely that the toxic exposure will lead to illness. Unfortunately, upon learning that a person diagnosed with one of these diseases was also a smoker, many asbestos companies facing legal action argue against their own legal responsibility, blaming the smoking for the illness instead. Such a case is currently proceeding through the courts, as ex-railroad worker Kevin E. Howell has filed suit against Consolidated Rail Corporation.
Mr. Howell’s case provides a remarkable example of the lengths to which asbestos companies will go to avoid providing justice to those diagnosed with mesothelioma and other asbestos-related conditions. Mr. Howell worked for the company for 38 years, repairing and maintaining railroad signal houses and the signals themselves. During that time he would drill holes into boards that were made with asbestos, causing him to breathe in large quantities of asbestos dust on a regular basis. He was also admittedly a heavy smoker. Two years after his retirement, Mr. Howell was diagnosed with lung disease and lung cancer which his physicians attributed to asbestos exposure. He filed a lawsuit against Consolidated Rail, and the company promptly filed to have the case dismissed on the grounds that he hadn’t provided enough proof that his illness was caused by their asbestos rather than by his having smoked for all of those years.
Mr. Howell’s case was originally presented to a trial court, but Consolidated Rail Corporation and its fellow defendants filed a motion to dismiss the case. Though the trial court decided against their argument, they then appealed the case to the Court of Appeals of Ohio, which reviewed all of the evidence that had been provided. They looked at applicable law regarding the evidentiary requirements for an asbestos case in which the plaintiff was also a smoker. They also heard testimony provided by Mr. Howell’s physicians and the testimony of Mr. Howell and former colleagues regarding the extent to which he was exposed to asbestos while on the job. Taking all of these components together they decided against the railroad, saying that there was more than enough evidence for the case to proceed. They also ordered the railroad to compensate Mr. Howell for the legal and court expenses that he incurred as a result of their actions.
Though Mr. Howell’s case still has to proceed through the courts, it makes clear that an experienced mesothelioma attorney can take on the big company lawyers and prevail. If you have been impacted by an asbestos-related disease and want to speak to somebody about your rights, contact us today. We can be reached at 1-800-966-2244