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October 15, 2018

Sheldon Silver Arrest Shows The Seamy Side Of Asbestos Litigation

Federal prosecutors unsealed a criminal complaint against New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, detailing long-rumored allegations about how a prominent asbestos law firm steered millions of dollars to the powerful politician in exchange for client referrals from a doctor, who in turn is accused of accepting favors from Silver.

The 35-page complaint by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York accuses Silver of accepting more than $5.3 million in payments from Weitz & Luxenberg, a New York law firm that specializes in asbestos lawsuits. Silver is also accused of obtaining the money in exchange for client referrals from an unnamed doctor in Manhattan who is cooperating with prosecutors under non-prosecution agreement. The doctor is accused of receiving substantial benefits from the Speaker, including $500,000 in grants for his mesothelioma research clinic and a job for a family member at a state-funded non-profit.

The complaint accuses Silver of using his office to obtain “referral fees” in exchange for little or no actual legal work, and failing to report some of them on his personal finance statements. He obtained more than $500,000 in fees from another law firm specializing in real estate appraisal appeals, prosecutors said. No one in Silver’s office was immediately available for comment.

It has long been known that Silver earned hundreds of thousands of dollars a year from Weitz & Luxenberg, but under New York’s lax reporting rules he wasn’t required to say exactly how much or what he did for the money. Today’s complaint provides more detail, showing how the extraordinarily lucrative business of suing over asbestos generates enough fee income to finance “research grants” to doctors who refer clients back to them.

Citing records pulled by the state’s short-lived Moreland Commission as well a a federal investigation, prosecutors say Silver parlayed his relationship with the physician identified as “Doctor-1″ to funnel clients to Weitz & Luxenberg in exchange for 33% of the firm’s take on any case. The doctor is further identified as running a mesothelioma research center at a major university, and having received a commendation from the Assembly in May, 2011.

Dr. Robert Taub runs the Columbia University Mesothelioma Center and received a commendation in May 2011, He was until 2013 affiliated with the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, whose major supporters include asbestos attorney Peter Angelos. Taub hasn’t been charged with wrongdoing and wasn’t immediately available for comment.

According to the complaint, Silver met Doctor-1 through a mutual friend. The doctor had never referred patients to Weitz & Luxenberg because they didn’t fund mesothelioma research, the complaint says. Soon after learning that Silver had joined the firm in 2002, the doctor asked him if Weitz & Luxenberg would start funding research.

Silver told him he should start referring his patients to the firm, prosecutors say, and that state funds were available for his research. (New York allocated $8.5 million a year to a discretionary fund, controlled by Silver, for healthcare grants, until that fund was discontinued in 2007.) Seven weeks after the doctor made his first referral to Weitz & Luxenberg, records show, he made a $250,000 grant request to the state. The letter was addressed to Silver. On July 5, 2005, Silver directed a $250,000 grant to the doctor’s mesothelioma center. The letter said the money would be for mesothelioma research including on the effects of the Sept. 11 catastrophe in Silver’s district, but didn’t mention the client referrals Silver was getting.

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Sheldon Silver Arrest Shows The Seamy Side Of Asbestos Litigation

Judge To Open Files Supporting Garlock Asbestos Fraud Claims Next Week

A long-secret trove of court filings that bankrupt gasket maker Garlock Sealing Technologies says illustrate a pattern of fraud in asbestos litigation is expected to be opened to public view next next week, possibly as soon as Monday.

The files, Garlock says, will show how plaintiff lawyers withheld evidence their clients were exposed to multiple asbestos products in order to extract higher settlements and court verdicts from Garlock. In one case that generated a $37 million verdict in California, Garlock says, a lawyer with prominent Dallas asbestos firm Waters Waters & Kraus flatly denied exposure to dangerous insulation that his client had already admitted, under penalty of perjury, in another proceeding.

The records in racketeering lawsuits Garlock filed against several asbestos law firms are to be unsealed after a fierce battle by plaintiff lawyers to keep them secret. In January, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge George Hodges in Charlotte, North Carolina slashed Garlock’s estimated liability for asbestos exposure from $1.4 billion to $125 million after determining that the higher estimates were based upon court cases “infected by the manipulation of exposure evidence by plaintiffs and their lawyers.” In a pattern long known to defense attorneys, plaintiff lawyers coach their clients to “remember” working with only products made by the company they are suing, then file claims with bankruptcy trusts alleging other exposures.

Plaintiff lawyers argued unsealing the records would violate the privacy rights of their clients, even though they largely consist of public court filings. Hodges initially went along with them, and even sealed part of Garlock’s bankruptcy proceedings from the public. But a federal judge sided with Legal Newsline on its First Amendment challenge and ordered the files opened in July.

Hodges agreed to open the entire record in October, in a move that could help other manufacturers and insurance companies including Ford, VW and Aetna Aetna as they try to recover money they’ve paid out to plaintiffs who made duplicative and often conflicting claims about their asbestos exposure. As early as December, the public will have access to records covering more than 100,000 people who filed claims against Garlock as well as hundreds of thousands more who filed claims against nearly every trust set up to process claims against companies forced into bankruptcy over asbestos.

Those files are being redacted now to remove confidential information, although they will retain the last four digits of the claimants’ Social Security numbers so claims can be quickly matched up to uncover evidence of double-dipping and conflicting claims.

In a filing this week contesting plaintiff lawyers’ attempt to reopen the bankruptcy case, Garlock offered a preview of what the public will be able to see as soon as Monday. According to that filing, lawyers at Waters & Kraus won a $36.7 million jury verdict in 2004 after Navy veteran Robert Treggett testified that he was exposed to the asbestos in Garlock gaskets, but not the asbestos in Unibestos pipe insulation, which experts say is a hundreds of times more potent cause of mesothelioma.

His attorney, Ron C. Eddins, also told the jury it was “not true” that Unibestos was on the ship he worked on, even though Treggett had filed a bankruptcy claim under penalty of perjury saying he’d been exposed to Unibestos. That verdict induced Garlock to enter an agreement to settle claims with Waters & Kraus under an annual “cap” of payouts and was among the verdicts plaintiff lawyers cited in their claim that Garlock owed more than $1 billion in bankruptcy. Garlock says it could have won the suit, or been assessed with much less liability, if it had known about the Unibestos evidence.

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Judge To Open Files Supporting Garlock Asbestos Fraud Claims Next Week

Cancer link to two asbestos factories

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Queensland Health’s executive director of the Health Protection Unit, Sophie Dwyer, confirmed the “raw data” from the Queensland Cancer Registry showed 20 people who had contracted mesothelioma lived within a 1.5-kilometre radius from the two plants.

However, the risk from asbestos from Gaythorne’s former asbestos history is now low, according to Ms Dwyer.

She confirmed that “sheets” of old asbestos were being found in a creek leading into Kedron Brook.

However, Ms Dwyer told residents at a public meeting at the Gaythorne RSL on Tuesday night that the risks from asbestos had declined since the plant closed.

“People should be aware that the site has not been used as an asbestos factory for over 20 years, so any general ambient contamination outside buildings is likely to have washed away with subsequent rain and flood events,” Ms Dwyer said.

“The greatest risk would have occurred when the factory was in operation and during close-down and clean-up.”

Ms Dwyer said Queensland Health was more than aware of public concerns in the two areas of Brisbane because there was a “30 to 40-year latency period” for asbestos-related diseases, between exposure and the emergence of mesothelioma.

On Wednesday morning Ms Dwyer said there were many variables that had to be cross-checked before the significance of the cancer disease close to the two asbestos factory sites could be classed as “significant”.

She said that included whether those people who contracted asbestos-related diseases had moved recently to the locations, whether they had worked at the factories, or whether the sufferers were the partner of a person who worked at either of the factories.

That research was part of a four-pronged study now underway into cancer-related diseases at Gaythorne, Mitchelton and Newstead, Ms Dwyer said.

She said the raw data was “important” but it was too early to tell if the asbestos-related disease statistics were “significant”.

Three Queensland Government departments – Environment, Health and Occupational Health and Safety with the Attorney-General’s department – and Brisbane City Council have been drawn into a multi-agency investigation.

Ms Dwyer said teams were doing inspections of dump sites being notified by residents, talking to James Hardie about the operations of the two plants and trying to locate former staff and management of the Wunderlich factory.

“Queensland Health is working with other agencies to determine whether there are any current health risks for residents living in close proximity to the former plant.”

This review will include tests of asbestos that has been found and checks of results found by a private company employed by a Brisbane media outlet.

“An environmental sampling program of the area surrounding the former Wunderlich factory will incorporate recognised testing standards and sampling methods,” Ms Dwyer said.

“If significant, above-background levels of contamination are detected as part of this investigation, then recommendations relating to health protection or mitigation measures to manage ongoing risks to the community will be provided to the appropriate agencies.”

Amanda Richards, general manager of Queensland’s Asbestos-Related Disease Society, on Tuesday said northside residents were now worried after several “dumps” of old asbestos sheeting were found.

“Every day we are getting more phone calls from people who lived in the area or who worked at the factory,” Ms Richards told Fairfax Radio 4BC.











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Cancer link to two asbestos factories

Push to close asbestos loophole

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Ms Doust said, as WA laws currently stood, people who received compensation for asbestosis could not receive further financial support for mesothelioma or lung cancer brought on by asbestos exposure.

“What this bill would seek to do is allow at a later stage they can actually go back and seek additional compensation,” Ms Doust said.

The bill could also allow courts to award provisional damages and damages to compensate for any loss or impairment to the victim from doing domestic duty or caring for another person, such as a child.

Each year about 250 West Australians die from diseases connected with exposure to the deadly fibres.

Between 1960 and 2008, about 1400 men and 220 women in WA were diagnosed with mesothelioma. The high toll is attributed to what is considered one of Australia’s largest industrial disasters – mining blue asbestos in Wittenoom in the Pilbara.

“The figures are going up because it’s everywhere and the exposure is everywhere,” Ms Doust said.

“It’s in a whole range of workplaces and the potential for exposure is so high.”

The bill was tabled in parliament late last year and had its second reading in February which WA Attorney General Michael Mischin is responding to on behalf of the government.

Ms Doust said she was not confident the bill would be supported by the government.

“I think Michael Mischin is trying to find a whole heap of reasons not to support this bill.”

Mr Mischin said in a statement the government acknowledged asbestos-related diseases were a serious issue in WA and it was deeply sympathetic to those who are afflicted by asbestos-related diseases.

“While I acknowledge Hon. Kate Doust’s efforts in introducing the bill, it regrettably, cannot be supported by government as the drafting is unsatisfactory in a variety of respects,” Mr Mischin said.

“The bill draws on specifically drafted provisions and incompatible provisions selected from various legislation of other Australian jurisdictions – some of that legislation [is] ill considered.

“If the bill became law, ambiguity in the provisions’ meaning and intended application inevitably would result in controversy and litigation.

“There are so many difficulties with the bill that it cannot pass in its current form.

“Even if key elements of the bill were supported by government, the detail and implications of those elements should be further considered, with appropriate stakeholders, to ensure that it does not work against those whom the bill is intended to help. This important issue is one that I would like to explore further with my department.”

Ms Doust said the additional compensation for claimants would come from monies set aside by manufacturer James Hardie.

“There is no cost to the government… there is no criticism from insurers,” she said.

“How much more time do we want to waste on the semantics? Let’s give some comfort to these people.

“At the end of the day, WA people deserve a better outcome and legislation that provides better compensation and support.

“Why would WA be left behind the rest of the country?”

;











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Push to close asbestos loophole

Contractor fined for asbestos violations at Worcester project

WORCESTER — A demolition company has been fined up to $125,000 for mishandling asbestos during a renovation of the Crompton and Knowles building at 95 Grand St.

According to Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office, the contractor, McConnell Enterprises Inc., of Essex and Braintree, “uncovered piping wrapped with asbestos insulation during demolition in 2011 and allegedly left it hanging three stories above the ground, putting workers and others in the area at risk of contact with harmful fibers for an extended period of time.”

McConnell — a state-licensed asbestos removal contractor — “finally removed the asbestos-covered pipes and other asbestos-containing materials from the building on Grand Street, the company failed to properly handle and store it, leaving it in unmarked black plastic bags in a nearby building where people regularly come and go and other businesses operate.”

The complaint, filed Thursday in Suffolk Superior Court, McConnell “also failed to follow proper notification procedures, preventing the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) from conducting appropriate oversight of the company’s asbestos removal activities.”

In order to secure payment under its demolition contract with the city of Worcester, the complaint alleged that McConnell “falsely certified that it had complied with the applicable laws and regulations, violating the Massachusetts False Claims Act. The complaint also alleges various violations of the commonwealth’s air pollution prevention statute, its asbestos regulations, and its solid waste management statute and regulations.”

Under the settlement, McConnell must pay $82,500 in civil penalties to the state, and another $42,500 in civil penalties if it fails to conform to waste regulations over the next 18 months.

When reached at its Braintree headquarters Friday, a McConnell employee said the company would have no comment.

“Licensed asbestos contractors are fully aware of the removal, handling, packaging and storage requirements that must be followed when dealing with asbestos-containing materials and of the requirement to provide notification to MassDEP in advance of this work,” said DEP Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell in a press release. “Asbestos is a known carcinogen, and following the rules is imperative to protect workers as well as the general public and environment. Failure to do so will result in significant penalty exposure, as well as escalated cleanup, decontamination and monitoring costs.”

Aaron Nicodemus can be reached at anicodemus@telegram.com

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Contractor fined for asbestos violations at Worcester project

Case Sheds Light On The Murky World Of Asbestos Litigation

hide captionCompanies have set aside more than $30 billion for victims of mesothelioma, a form of cancer linked to asbestos exposure, since 1980.

iStockphoto

Companies have set aside more than $30 billion for victims of mesothelioma, a form of cancer linked to asbestos exposure, since 1980.

Companies have set aside more than $30 billion for victims of mesothelioma, a form of cancer linked to asbestos exposure, since 1980.

iStockphoto

This is a case about a bankrupt company, legal shenanigans, and a rare type of cancer.

You may have seen TV commercials about mesothelioma, mainly caused by inhaling asbestos — minerals many companies once used in insulation and other products.

According to a 2011 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, companies have set aside more than $30 billion for mesothelioma victims since the 1980s. Asbestos lawsuits have played a role in about 100 companies’ going bankrupt.

One of those is a gasket manufacturer called Garlock. Its parent company, EnPro Industries, is based in Charlotte, N.C. As part of Garlock’s $1 billion bankruptcy case, a judge has slashed what the manufacturer owes asbestos victims after finding that the victim’s lawyers abused the system.

Some call Garlock’s bankruptcy case a watershed moment.

“It’s laid bare the massive fraud that is routinely practiced in mesothelioma litigation,” says Lester Brickman, a Cardozo law school professor who has researched asbestos litigation for more than 20 years and who testified on behalf of Garlock.

In Texas, one plaintiff said his only exposure to asbestos was from Garlock — after his lawyers filed a claim with another company. In California, a plaintiff’s lawyers misled a jury to make Garlock look worse. And in Philadelphia, lawyers made evidence of their client’s exposure to 20 different asbestos products disappear.

Those are just a few of the old cases that federal bankruptcy judge George Hodges gave Garlock’s lawyers permission to re-examine back in late 2012.

“As [Hodges] says in his order,” says Rick Magee, one of Garlock’s attorneys, “we were able to demonstrate in all — each and every one of those 15 cases — that there was extensive suppression of exposure evidence.”

In doing so, Garlock persuaded Hodges to drastically reduce the estimate for how much the company still owes victims.

No one argues that people suffering from mesothelioma shouldn’t get compensated. Instead, it’s a matter of the right companies paying the right amounts.

The victims’ lawyers argued that the company still owes about $1 billion, based on Garlock’s past settlements. But in his January decision, Hodges wrote that that estimate is “infected with the impropriety of some law firms and inflated by the cost of defense.”

The head of one of those firms, Peter Kraus, managing partner of Waters & Kraus in Dallas, disagrees.

“There are some of those cases that involve my firm,” he says. “So I know for a fact from those cases that the judge’s description of what happened is simply not correct.”

Kraus says Hodges took a radical approach with his decision. “It’s very, very different from the rulings and findings by judges with a good deal more experience in this area.”

But that argument doesn’t fly with folks at the Institute for Legal Reform at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

“When you start building the case, when you start seeing more and more of these instances, you got to really question whether this is an outlier or not,” says Harold Kim, the organization’s executive vice president.

Judges in Delaware, Ohio and Virginia have also noted dubious legal maneuvering in asbestos litigation, though not on the scale of the Garlock case. Kim says the case will be a wake-up call for other judges, which will lead to more accurate estimates of what companies really owe.

For Garlock, the judge estimates that’s $125 million. But the case isn’t finished, and victims’ lawyers are likely to challenge that amount.

In the meantime, Garlock is suing some of the people who are suing it. The company is going after six law firms for the types of practices it uncovered in its bankruptcy case.

Link: 

Case Sheds Light On The Murky World Of Asbestos Litigation

Vt. AG: deal reached with asbestos mine owner

EDEN, Vt. (AP) — The Vermont attorney general’s office says the state has filed a settlement agreement with the former owner of a defunct asbestos mine over cleanup of the site in Eden and Lowell.

The attorney general’s office said Thursday that the state will recover some past expenses from mitigation work done at the site.

The state says Vermont Asbestos Group, Inc. will maintain the corrective structures for the next ten years.

The company also has agreed to work with the state and Environmental Protection Agency to get money from its insurance policies, which will help the state and EPA cover past and future cleanup costs.

The asbestos mine, located on 1,500 acres, operated in the two towns for nearly a century, closing in 1993.

Link:

Vt. AG: deal reached with asbestos mine owner

ADAO President to Testify before U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works as Part of Expert Panel …

WASHINGTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–

The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), the largest
independent asbestos victims’ organization in the U.S., today announced
that President and Co-Founder Linda Reinstein will testify about the
dangers of asbestos on Wednesday, July 31, 2013 at 9:30 AM EDT before
the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW). She
will join an expert panel during a full committee hearing entitled, “Strengthening
Public Health Protections by Addressing Toxic Chemical Threats. ”

The hearing, to be held at 406 Dirksen Senate Office Building, will
examine the need for Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) reform
to protect public health and our environment from chemicals.

Ms. Reinstein will discuss how the specific TSCA reform under
consideration through the “Safe Chemicals Act of 2013″ (S. 696) is
critically flawed and jeopardizes public health and the environment. Her
testimony will examine the need to expedite action to prohibit imports,
and ban the manufacture, sale and export of asbestos-containing
products, while protecting each state’s ability to maintain or pass
stronger laws to regulate chemicals.

Reinstein will discuss the facts about the continued use of lethal
asbestos in the U.S., with ports in the states of Louisiana, Texas,
California and New Jersey still actively receiving and unloading
asbestos shipments. Reinstein will also reference the U.S. Geological
Survey’s (USGS) report that states that U.S. asbestos consumption in
2012 was estimated to be 1,060 tons. In the past two years, the nation
has seen an increase in asbestos consumption in the chloralkali industry
specifically, even though viable and affordable asbestos
substitutes exist.

“Most Americans trust that their air, soil and water are safe from toxic
contaminants; however, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) has
failed to protect public health and our environment,” according to Ms.
Reinstein’s testimony. “Asbestos fibers are odorless, tasteless,
indestructible, and can be nearly 700 times smaller than a human hair.
All forms of asbestos can cause cancer and respiratory diseases.
Americans have lost confidence in the chemical industries’ ability to
protect us from toxins. Congress should draft and pass meaningful TSCA
reform legislation that truly strengthens protections for our families
and environment by preventing the further use of asbestos.”

Ms. Reinstein joins a panel of expert witnesses including Michael
Troncoso (Senior Counsel, Office of the Attorney General), Ken Cook
(President and Co-founder, Environmental Working Group), Daniel
Rosenberg (Senior Attorney, Natural Resource Defense Council), and
additional national experts on public health and the environment.

ADAO will deliver nearly 2,500 Ban
Asbestos petition
 supporter signatures to Congress as part of Ms.
Reinstein’s participation at the hearing.

Each year, an estimated 10,000 Americans die from asbestos-related
disease: 3,000 from mesothelioma, 5,000 from lung cancer, and 2,000 from
other cancers or respiratory diseases. Between 2000 and 2010, 43,464
Americans died from mesothelioma and asbestosis – just two of the
leading asbestos-caused diseases.

“One life lost to a preventable asbestos-caused disease is tragic,” her
testimony concludes. “Hundreds of thousands of lives lost is
unconscionable.”

About ADAO

The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) was
founded by asbestos victims and their families in 2004. ADAO seeks to
give asbestos victims a united voice to help ensure that their rights
are fairly represented and protected, and raise public awareness about
the dangers of asbestos exposure and the often deadly asbestos-related
diseases. ADAO is funded through voluntary contributions and staffed by
volunteers. For more information, visit www.asbestosdiseaseawareness.org.

Contact:

Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO)

Kim Larkin, 202-391-5205


klarkin@larkincomm.com
www.asbestosdiseaseawareness.org

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Asbestos found at site of June 5 collapse

But Geppert Bros. Inc., hired by STB after the collapse to clear the debris, brought in a certified asbestos removal firm last week to do limited work on the site.

City Councilman James F. Kenney has expressed concern about asbestos since the building went down, killing six people in an adjacent Salvation Army thrift shop.

Kenney said he had been told that asbestos was removed from the site last week. He said he wants detailed explanations from everyone involved. A source familiar with the cleanup, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of not being authorized to release information, confirmed Kenney’s assertion.

Of five companies asked for bids on the demolition work, Kenney said, at least one had mentioned asbestos removal in its bid proposal and sought $40,000 to deal with asbestos alone. STB went with the lowest of the bidders, Griffin Campbell Construction Co., which was willing to do the job for less than half the amounts sought by the other bidders, Kenney said.

“It’s starting to look like the asbestos report to the Health Department isn’t worth the paper it was written on,” Kenney said. “The firefighters, police, and others who dove into that debris to try to rescue people, those people need to have that information.”

Most of those involved – Hudson, Marinakos, and attorneys for the building owner and for Griffin Campbell – did not return telephone calls seeking comment. Hudson’s former employer, an environmental firm based in Delaware, said he had performed the inspections without the firm’s knowledge or consent.

A spokeswoman for Geppert Bros., Mary Pat Geppert, said, “There’s no story here,” but declined to provide any information, referring a reporter to the city’s Division of Air Management Services, an arm of the Health Department that handles asbestos issues.

Calls to the Health Department were referred to the mayor’s press office, which has so far failed to answer any questions about asbestos at the site – even to release a copy of the asbestos inspection report that Marinakos filed with L&I in January. (NBC10 obtained a copy of the asbestos report two weeks ago from undisclosed sources and has posted it on its website.)

Asbestos, long used as an insulation and fire-retardant material, is known to cause certain kinds of cancer. Because of that, its handling and removal has been regulated in the United States since the 1970s.

The extent of the contamination at 22d and Market is not known, because most of the debris has been carted off. Airborne particles – the most dangerous because they can be inhaled – may have blown away.

Edward M. Nass, a Philadelphia lawyer who specializes in asbestos-related personal-injury claims, said the likely hazard from the collapse was not great. Most people who develop asbestos-caused cancers were exposed to the material for years, in such work as shipbuilding, pipe fitting, or insulation installation, he said.

There are rare cases, he said, of people developing mesothelioma, a cancer caused only by asbestos, after only a day or two of exposure. He put the risk of anyone with direct exposure, either first responders or victims who were rescued, at “one in a million or less.”

It normally takes at least 10 years after exposure for victims to develop asbestos-related diseases, he said.

Another personal injury lawyer, Benjamin Shein, concurred. “I would not have cause for concern,” he said.

The Inquirer has filed a request under the state Right-to-Know Law for any reports dealing with asbestos found at the demolition site, before or after the building collapse, but the administration has not yet responded – a continuing theme since the June 5 accident.

For the last four weeks, the administration has said that it could not release documents related to the failed demolition because of the district attorney’s grand jury investigation.

But the District Attorney’s Office issued a statement this week saying that the grand jury probe did not supersede the state’s public records law and that the office had not instructed the city to withhold public records.

“The grand jury proceedings will of course be conducted in secrecy,” said the statement, released by Tasha Jamerson, spokeswoman for District Attorney Seth Williams. “But this incident has obviously provoked extensive public discussion, and there is no reason that public officials cannot discuss issues of public policy arising from publicly available facts and materials. Materials that were public information before the collapse should still be considered public information now.”

Other material withheld by the Nutter administration since the collapse includes a current list of licensed demolition sites; the successful application for city demolition work filed by Sean Benschop, the equipment operator facing involuntary manslaughter charges in the mishap; two iPhone videos recorded by Ron Wagenhoffer, an L&I inspector who apparently took his own life a week after the collapse; and the settlement memos explaining $878,000 in city tax dollars spent on demolition-related claims over the past five years.


Contact Bob Warner at 215-854-5885 or warnerb@phillynews.com.

Inquirer staff writer Paul Nussbaum contributed to this article.

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Asbestos found at site of June 5 collapse

Asbestos found at three Qld NBN sites

Asbestos has been discovered at three national broadband network (NBN) work sites in Queensland.

The hazardous material was water-blasted on to the faces of workers at an underground Telstra pit in Brisbane, and asbestos dust at a Mackay site was left unattended for five days, the Queensland government says.

State Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie says federal Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten needs to take responsibility, following the discoveries by Queensland’s Workplace Health and Safety agency.

“This is an absolute botched debacle again by a federal government,” Mr Bleijie told reporters in Brisbane on Monday.

“We saw it with the home insulation debacle we had a few years ago.

“I’m concerned about the workers in Queensland who may be unprotected and may not have the necessary training to deal with asbestos issues.”

Mr Bleijie said a class action could be launched against the NBN Co or the commonwealth as a national asbestos register is established.

Mr Bleijie has written to Mr Shorten pointing out the workplace safety breaches.

“I’ve asked for an immediate update with respect to what the federal government are doing,” he said.

“My major concern is for the workers.”

In a breach discovered in early March, asbestos was water-blasted onto the faces of two workers at Carseldine in Brisbane’s north.

In Mackay, in central Queensland, asbestos dust was left for five days after a concrete pipe was cut in April.

Asbestos was also left on a nearby footpath, and workers wore the wrong masks.

Two weeks ago, two workers were found to have used respirators wrongly at a Banyo site, in northern Brisbane.

The breaches occurred as underground Telstra pits were widened to install NBN cables, but Mr Bleijie was unable to say if work had been suspended at the sites by contractor Silcar.

“We have no option now but to look at all the sites of the NBN across Queensland.”

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Asbestos found at three Qld NBN sites