During the course of an asbestos-related disease lawsuit, families are often surprised to see how hard asbestos companies will fight against their right to compensation for their damages. Though their asbestos attorney will warn them and try to prepare them about the tactics that these companies use, it is still shocking that in the face of incontrovertible evidence of asbestos’ dangers, these companies will still argue against their responsibility for the victim’s illness, going so far as to attempt to denigrate the abilities of witnesses and bar them from giving testimony. The grieving family of a man who died of an asbestos-related cancer were recently witness to this type of strategy, but were able to prevail and have their expert’s testimony allowed.
The asbestos lawsuit involves Dolores Duty and her three children, who had originally filed a wrongful death and personal injury lawsuit against TRZ Realty, LLC. They claimed that their husband and father, William Duty, had colon cancer that was caused by his occupational exposure to asbestos during his years as a drywall taper, and that his death was the company’s responsibility. In response, the company moved to preclude the family’s designated medical expert, Dr. Revels Cayton, from testifying.
Though Dr. Cayton spent an extensive amount of time establishing his credentials as an expert in asbestos-related diseases, TRZ argued to preclude his testimony from being admitted. They argued that he was not qualified to testify that Mr. Duty’s cancer had been caused by his exposure to asbestos, and the first court hearing the case agreed. The Duty family then appealed the case to the Court of Appeals of California, which reversed the earlier decision and ruled that his testimony is admissible and the case can proceed. The court also ruled that the family be provided with compensation for the legal expenses that they incurred in filing their appeal of the original decision.
When parents send their kids off to school each day, their concerns should be about the friendships they make and the things that they learn, not the risk of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. Unfortunately, the danger is real, and something that families need to be aware of. Most American school buildings were constructed in the days prior to when asbestos’ carcinogenic nature was widely known, and as a result the hazardous material was an integral component of the building process. If your child’s school was constructed prior to the 1980s, there are things you need to know in order to keep them safe from the illnesses that this once-popular building material can cause.
If you’re dubious about whether the risk of mesothelioma from school buildings is real, then consider this statistic: American teachers have more than two times the chance of dying from mesothelioma than is true of the rest of the public at large. They join chemical plant employees, construction workers and others in the ranks of at-risk professionals. Now think about the fact that your child is sitting in the very same environment that those teachers work in each day. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says that roughly one third of the kids attending the nation’s 107,000 primary and secondary schools are in buildings constructed with asbestos that puts them at risk.
If you are concerned about whether this problem impacts you, there are steps that you can take. The first step is to ask your school board or district officials about the status of your child’s building. It should be readily available, and if it is not then you need to be diligent in your follow up. You may want to enlist other parents in order to make sure that your inquiry is getting the appropriate and immediate attention that it deserves. The EPA has published a pamphlet “The ABCs of Asbestos in Schools” to help parents get the information that they need.
Taking appropriate steps to learn more about the dangers posed by asbestos and to protect your child against the potential harm of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases is an essential step. The more you know about the very real dangers posed by asbestos, the better off your child and your community will be.
People who have been exposed to asbestos are at significant risk for developing malignant mesothelioma, a rare and deadly form of cancer. But for those who are both aware of their exposure and the dangers that it has invited, there is little that can be done outside of watching and waiting: there is no simple or accessible test available for mesothelioma. All that those at risk are able to do is watch and wait for symptoms to appear. But now a team of researchers from Stanford University have announced the development of a molecular-level cancer test that may provide hope for early diagnosis.
The test may eventually be used in diagnosing malignant mesothelioma. It was described in a recent article in The Journal of Molecular Diagnostics, and is what is known as a single color digital PCR. It needs just a few drops of blood to identify three different molecules that are related to DNA mutations unique to cancer. The test is extremely fast, providing in answer in a single reaction. This represents a sea change in diagnostic abilities.
Speaking of the innovative test, lead investigator Hanlee P. Ji, MD, Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine at Stanford University and Senior Associate Director of the Stanford Genome Technology Center, “For monitoring patient tumors, only a handful of blood tests are available which are limited to only several types of cancers. Nearly all cancer patients require monitoring by whole body imaging, which can be costly, complex, and time consuming. In contrast, molecular tests like the one we have developed will enable patients to be monitored at every visit, and thus have the potential for quickly tracking cancer growth and spread. Moreover, the test’s rapid turnaround and relatively low cost, especially compared to next-generation DNA sequencing, provide a potential opportunity for universal monitoring of more patients than is currently done.”
It is thought that a readily accessible, quick response test like this can represent a major shift and advancement in the diagnosis of malignant mesothelioma and other cancers. Lead author Christina Wood Bouwens said, “this test is simple enough to set up and analyze without extensive training, and therefore it can be implemented by anyone, making it highly accessible to any laboratory. It has been truly motivating to work with a technology that will help transform the way that we monitor and treat individuals with cancer. I am excited to share our findings with the cancer research community.”
A Portland, Oregon couple has won their mesothelioma lawsuit against John Crane, Inc. The jury hearing the case decided that John Crane, Inc., a military defense contractor that provided asbestos-contaminated materials to both the military during the years that Robert Sprague served in the U.S. Navy and to Sprague’s later employers owes them both compensation for his medical expenses and punitive damages for having knowingly exposed him to a dangerous carcinogen.
Robert Sprague’s mesothelioma is probably going to claim his life within the next year and a half. The 75-year-old and his wife Bonnie live in Eugene, Oregon and were enjoying their golden years until 2015, when he was diagnosed with the disease. In his younger years Mr. Sprague had served in the U.S. Navy, where he was exposed to asbestos-contaminated insulation. Later, between 1965 and 1987, he worked as a pipe fitter in both Oregon and Massachusetts, and in that capacity he continued working with gaskets and packing material provided by John Crane, Inc. The jury hearing his case listened carefully to the evidence regarding the effect of asbestos on the human body and of Mr. Sprague’s specific exposures over the years, and determined that he was deserving of financial damages for what he and his wife suffered. The verdict included $3 million in punitive damages, $1.63 million in damages for pain and suffering, and $813,000 in economic damages that specifically covered his medical expenses. Though the jury determined that the Navy was 65 percent responsible for Mr. Sprague’s illness, veterans are not able to legally pursue the government for financial losses.
When a person is exposed to asbestos, they are at risk for a number of conditions. The mineral, which was once widely used in construction and high-heat environments because of its characteristic strength and insulating characteristics, breaks down easily into tiny needle-like fibers that become embedded in the lining of the body’s organs. These particles cause cell death and eventual mutations that grow into cancerous tumors.
Many of the companies that used asbestos in their products were aware of the dangers that the inexpensive material posed, but conspired to keep the information quiet in order to be able to continue using it. As a result, countless people have been sickened and died, and those companies have been held legally and financially responsible for the harm that they have done.
Though it is well known that malignant mesothelioma is an asbestos-related disease and that it is fatal, it has not previously been determined how the disease ranks among all other asbestos-related diseases. Now a group of Spanish researchers has conducted an in-depth analysis, reviewing the medical histories and outcomes of asbestos-exposed individuals in their community. Their assessment has revealed that though there are numerous diseases that those exposed to asbestos are likely to experience, malignant mesothelioma is the deadliest of them all, and accounts for the highest percentage of deaths among the cohort.
The group performed their study in Barcelona, Spain. They reviewed data dating back to 1970 and collected through 2006 from a group of 544 individuals that had a risk of asbestos exposure. Among that group there were 167 who died of asbestos-related diseases, and more than half of those who had died had been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma. There were patients who died of non-asbestos related illnesses, but the majority of those who died had either pleural or peritoneal mesothelioma. Of that group, the majority were men, with an increased risk seen in those who were between 60 and 69 years of age.
The study, whose goal was to determine the global impact of all forms of asbestos-related diseases, resulted in a strong warning about the need for protective action against future exposure. “Our research shows the effects of prolonged exposure to asbestos which resulted in a high incidence rate of asbestos-related disease mortality. This kind of exposure and outcome can only be produced by inadequate preventive and protective measures against asbestos. These findings suggest the need to develop a preventive approach to the community and to improve the clinical follow-up process of these patients.”
With this study confirming that malignant mesothelioma represents the most deadly of all asbestos-related diseases, there is no question that strong action needs to be taken to act on behalf of those who have already been exposed to the dangerous carcinogen, as well as to prevent future exposures from happening in the United States and around the world.
Dale Jolly was diagnosed with mesothelioma in January of 2016, and since that time the 73-year old has been working to get better and to get justice. Jolly worked for Duke Energy in South Carolina for many years, and during that time he had many responsibilities that exposed him to asbestos from numerous sources. One of his jobs made him responsible for inspecting thousands of valves that had been installed in the company’s nuclear power plants. Those valves were manufactured and supplied by Fisher Controls International LLC and Crosby Controls International LLC. He has now filed suit against those companies seeking compensation for the harm that he has suffered.
When Mr. Jolly was first diagnosed and sought legal counsel, he filed claims against dozens of organizations that had negligently exposed him to asbestos, a carcinogenic material that has been identified as the singular cause of malignant mesothelioma. His actions against Georgia Pacific, Pfizer, General Electric, Union Carbide and others have been resolved out of court, but both Fisher and Crosby have refused to provide him with the compensation that he sought, so his case has now gone to trial.
According to documents provided to the court, Mr. Jolly began working for Duke Energy in 1979. Though he has indicated that his employer took positive action to try to protect its workers from exposure to toxic materials, the manufacturers that supplied the company did not. As he worked his way up from the position of pipe fitter to ultrasonic quality control inspector, he was exposed to numerous asbestos-contaminated materials, including valves with asbestos-containing gaskets. His lawsuit accuses the companies of negligence, pointing out that the government began regulating asbestos as far back as the 1930s, yet even into the late 1970s the companies were continuing to expose people to asbestos, putting concerns about people’s health far below their greater priority of making a profit.
The attorneys arguing on behalf of the asbestos companies are defending their clients’ actions by indicating that there are numerous other possible sources of asbestos exposure in Mr. Jolly’s occupational history and that it is impossible to prove that their asbestos-containing products were the cause of his fatal illness. The case is expected to resolve within two weeks.
Mesothelioma surgery’s goal is to reduce the amount of cancerous tissue in the body. There are two types of surgery offered: the pleurectomy (P/D) surgery which just removes the pleural lining, and the extra pleural pneumonectomy (EPP) surgery which removes all cancerous tissue that is found, which often includes the entire lung. There is a great amount of debate as to which surgery provides the best outcomes, with many physicians preferring the more aggressive approach. But the EPP surgery also has many more risks and surgical complications, and requires a far greater amount of time for recovery, so it is controversial.
Treating malignant mesothelioma is one of the greatest challenges for cancer researchers. The condition, which is caused by exposure to asbestos, is notoriously difficult to treat, as it does not respond well to traditional therapies like chemotherapy. For those who deal with this disease on a daily basis, even the slightest incremental improvement is a very big deal, and that’s why a recent report published in the journal Network Science has been met with so much excitement. According to a joint study conducted by the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom and the National Human Genome Research Institute branch of the National Institutes of Health, the effectiveness of chemotherapy treatments can be boosted as a result of patients being placed in treatment along with others who have experienced extended survival periods.
If you’re facing a terminal illness like malignant mesothelioma, the idea of eating healthy is probably the last thing on your mind. If anything, you’ve either entirely lost your appetite as a result of worry and grief or you feel like you may as well shoot the works and allow yourself to indulge in the unhealthy foods that you’ve previously denied yourself. The truth is that there’s almost no time in your life that nutrition is more important than when you’re fighting illness and succumbing to the various protocols that cancer patients have to face. Now it the time to pay more attention to what you’re eating and concentrate on the vitamins and minerals that you need.
Mesothelioma patients and those who are cooking for them and providing their care need to be aware of the three main nutritional goals that every cancer patient needs to focus on. These are:
- Maintaining muscle mass by eating plenty of protein
- Maintaining body weight by eating enough calories and nutrients
- Taking in plenty of liquids in order to remain well hydrated
Though different patients have different needs, the three components are universal.
Mesothelioma patients are frequently treated using a combination of surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy, and each of these protocols can have a profound impact on appetite, on how foods taste and smell to a patient, and whether they can digest them and keep them down. Though you want to emphasize eating fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and nutritious fats, you also don’t want to get into a battle with a person who already feels that they have lost control of their life.
If you are a mesothelioma patient who is struggling with eating in a healthy way, try the following foods and tips:
- Eat fresh fruits like melons or berries that contain nutrients and high quantities of water. This can address issues of hydration at the same time as delivering nutrients.
- Hot and cold cereals are tasty, easy to prepare and eat, and are fortified with nutrients.
- Peanut butter and cheese are both loaded with protein and calories and are easy to eat. When you eat them with a whole grain cracker you also add fiber.
- Rotisserie chickens can be picked up at almost any local market, require no cooking and provide easy to eat protein that can be eaten alone or added to soups, stews and pasta dishes.
- Eggs – Eggs are one of the most nutritionally dense foods available. They can be eaten scrambled, hardboiled or in omelets as well as in egg salads.
The fear of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases has driven many safety regulations and rules in the United States. Though asbestos was widely used in construction and other industrial settings prior to the 1980s, once the Environmental Protection Agency made public news that the inexpensive mineral was carcinogenic its use was dramatically curtailed, and environments where it was in place have been carefully and strategically decontaminated. Unfortunately, there are still unethical and disreputable businesses that bypass the laws and put the general public in danger. In a recent example of this type of misguided action, a Cleveland businessman who failed to remove asbestos from a factory that he owned has been fined $7.8 million and will spend the next five years in prison.