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May 25, 2018

Justice too late for asbestos victim Marian Ciopicz

Carolyn Ciopicz, left, and Marian Ciopicz, right, with their grandson.

Carolyn Ciopicz, left, and Marian Ciopicz, right, with their grandson. Photo: A

As a child, Marian Ciopicz used to play with his friends in piles of asbestos waste behind the now-notorious Wunderlich factory in Sunshine North.

“It was simply a terrific area for a child to play,” Mr Ciopicz told his lawyers in a deathbed statement in 2014.

“We threw handfuls of waste at each other, they exploded on impact, played hide and seek and war games and so on. When playing there it sometimes felt like we were in a snow storm. The air was full of white or grey dust and we were completely covered in it — hair, ears, all over our clothes and so on. It was great fun.”

The Wunderlich factory in McIntyre Road, North Sunshine in 1956.

The Wunderlich factory in McIntyre Road, North Sunshine in 1956. Photo: Supplied

Mr Ciopicz said children regularly played in the area behind the factory, which extended down to the railway line, but was not fenced off.

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It’s believed more than 20 people have contracted asbestos-related diseases from exposure to the factory, which operated until 1982. During peak production in the 1950s to the 1970s, clouds of asbestos dust rose above the factory roof, shrouding nearby streets, coating cars and making its way into homes.

According to Brimbank Council the asbestos on the former factory site — now the Westend Market Hotel — was capped and buried, but nearby residents have raised concerns about rabbits digging in the area and disturbing the deadly waste. It says the EPA is working with the current site owners to manage the risks.

After battling asbestosis for two years, Mr Ciopicz, a 69-year-old father of three and grandfather of six, died in October last year. After he died, his widow, Carolyn, kept up his battle for compensation and recognition that his illness had been caused by exposure to the site.

While justice came too late for Mr Ciopicz, on Thursday a Supreme Court jury awarded his family $467,000 in damages, the first asbestos-related payout in Victoria in a decade.

The jury found that the owner and operator of the former Wunderlich factory, Seltsam Pty Ltd, had negligently allowed Marian Copicz’s exposure to asbestos dust and fibres.

Slater and Gordon lawyer Michael Magazanik said the company had neglected to put up signs warning neighbours of the dangers of the site, or properly fence the McIntyre Road factory.

The jury was told that trucks leaving the factory spilled asbestos dust over local roads, and that fans inside the factory blew asbestos fibres into the air above the factory.

Silvio Comin, who worked at the Wunderlich factory, told the trial there was so much asbestos waste piled in the backyard behind the factory that he had to wear sunglasses to cope with the glare.

He said that dust at times escaped four to five metres into the air above the factory and when it was windy, it was “just like a snowstorm”.

Mr Magazanik said the family’s case had not been about money, but recognition.

“Most of all, this case is about recognition that this factory had caused their husband’s, father’s, grandfather’s death. They only wanted proper recognition. They wanted justice.”

In a statement released by her lawyers, Mrs Ciopicz spoke of her husband and family’s determination to get justice.

“Marian would have wanted me to finish what he started,” she said.

“Marian was a brave man who fought his illness to the very end. If it weren’t for that asbestos factory and its disgraceful pollution we would still have him here.

“Wunderlich let little children use its toxic dump as a playground. That is unbelievable. And so is the fact that they forced us to trial to get justice for Marian.”

Slater and Gordon says it has had dozens of calls from people concerned about their exposure to the site. It is the first asbestosis legal claim to run to verdict in Victoria in a decade. Previous cases have settled out of court.

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Justice too late for asbestos victim Marian Ciopicz

A Stubborn Manufacturer Exposes The Asbestos Blame Game

In a quiet bankruptcy court in Charlotte, N.C., closed to all but court personnel and people who’d signed strict confidentiality orders, attorney Garland Cassada laid out the inner workings of one of the longest-running and most lucrative schemes in the American litigation business.

Arguing for a manufacturer of asbestos gaskets named Garlock Sealing Technologies, Cassada explained how lawyers had tailored the testimony of their clients to minimize their exposure to more dangerous products, thus making Garlock seem more liable than it really was.

Cassada’s evidence for this scheme came from the mouths of the asbestos lawyers themselves. In an unprecedented move Garlock had persuaded U.S. Bankruptcy Judge George Hodges to allow it to dig into case files and question the lawyers who’d helped drive the company into bankruptcy.

EnPro's Steve Macadam: This is ridiculous.

EnPro’s Steve Macadam: This is ridiculous. (Photo credit: David Smith for Forbes)

That led to revealing disclosures like that of Benjamin Shein, a prominent Philadelphia asbestos attorney whose firm had settled the case of a former shipyard worker named Vincent Golini against then-solvent Garlock in 2009.

Golini was dying of the excruciating, asbestos-linked cancer known as mesothelioma when he sued Garlock and testified that he couldn’t recall working with other, more common and more hazardous products like Owens Corning’s Owens Corning’s Kaylo pipe insulation or EaglePicher asbestos cement. As soon as he settled, however, Golini’s lawyers filed claims against those precise companies based on affidavits they’d drawn up before Golini professed ignorance of their products.

“Our goal is to maximize a client’s recovery, okay, and in order to do that, what we focus on for the deposition is the viable, nonbankrupt companies,” said Shein in his own deposition. “That’s our job, okay?”

And had the asbestos lawyers prevailed, Shein’s efforts and Golini’s multiple filings would have remained secret. But thanks to Garlock’s persistence (and a successful lawsuit by Legal Newsline, a U.S. Chamber-funded publication seeking release of sealed court documents) the evidence has come spilling out. That evidence could be the biggest turning point in the decades-long multibillion-dollar battle over who will pay for asbestos cleanup across the U.S. Garlock is suing Shein and lawyers at five other firms for racketeering and fraud over their asbestos litigation. Shein’s lawyer, Daniel Brier, says that “Ben Shein is a zealous advocate for his clients” and the lawsuit has no merit.

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A Stubborn Manufacturer Exposes The Asbestos Blame Game

Asbestos registry demanded for federal public buildings

Tradespeople who say they were unknowingly exposed to asbestos while working in federal buildings say it’s time to develop a registry to let workers know what hazards may be in Canada’s public buildings.

​​Former House of Commons staff electronics technician Hugh Graham is one of a growing number of tradespeople calling for a national public building registry.

Graham worked 18 years on Parliament Hill and has since been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease.

Graham, now 80, has pleural plaques, or scarring over his lungs, that wasn’t confirmed until a operation in Ottawa.

An April 2000 report from the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers confirmed Graham was exposed to asbestos during his time on Parliament Hill in the 1980s and 90s.

Government managers learned about the extent of asbestos in the Parliament buildings in a 1988 study, but Graham says he and his colleagues were not warned to take precautions until two years later.

Graham says he knows several people who worked on the Hill who were diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases. He and some co-workers took it upon themselves to get checked out by doctors.

Initially, there was no sign of any asbestos-related disease. In Graham’s case, the disease, which has a latency of up to 40 years, was eventually confirmed during an operation in Ottawa.

“The plaque is over both my lungs…it’s also over my diaphragm…it looks like pizza pie, all lumpy and bumpy with scar tissue. That’s what turns into mesothelioma,” said Graham, referring to the asbestos-related cancer.

He says he lives with the possibility that cancer is coming.

“There isn’t a day goes by I don’t think of my condition and asbestos,” said Graham.

NDP calls for national registry

Graham says other countries have public registries that list buildings with asbestos and doesn’t understand why Canada doesn’t have such a registry.

Currently, Saskatchewan is the only province with such a list.

In 2012, the NDP put forth a private member’s bill calling on the Canada Labour Code to be modified to call on the Ministry of Labour to maintain a registry of information about all accidents and occupational diseases at federal buildings, but it did not move past first reading.

In question period on Tuesday, NDP MP and public works critic Pat Martin renewed his party’s call for a registry.

“In the absence of a comprehensive removal program, will the minister of public works at least concede to creating and publishing a national registry of all government buildings that are contaminated with asbestos so the workers in these buildings have at least a fighting chance when they go to work?” asked Martin.

Chris Warkentin, the parliamentary secretary for the minister of public works, did not address the idea of a registry specifically but said the government is committed to making sure workers have access to safe, fair and productive workplaces.

“Our government ensures our workers can refuse any work they believe may be dangerous. Dedicated health and safety officers work diligently on a daily basis to ensure the safety of Canada’s federally regulated workers,” said Warkentin.

Asbestos present in older buildings

Up until the 1990s, buildings in Canada were often constructed with asbestos containing materials — including ductwork, concrete, insulation, ceiling and floor materials.

Denis St. Jean, the national health and safety officer for the Public Service Alliance of Canada, says it’s typical for federal buildings across Canada to contain asbestos.

– DATABASE: 16 carcinogens in Canadian workplaces

St. Jean notes this is only a problem when the asbestos is disturbed, which is often the job of the contractor or tradesperson.

“We know these buildings have asbestos. We know they were built in the years where there is high risk of exposure…There should be at least an inventory of how many of these buildings have asbestos,” said St. Jean.

A CBC investigation has revealed that while it is a worker’s right to know the hazards that might be encountered on the job, Ottawa tradesman Denis Lapointe says he had to file access to information requests to learn about the extent of his potential exposure to asbestos.

Complaints across country

Lapointe, Graham and tradespeople in Ottawa are not the only ones who say they were kept in the dark about potential exposure.

Don Garrett, a private contractor in Hope, B.C., recently filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court of British Columbia to settle his outstanding claim over exposure to asbestos while doing a job in a Public Works and Government Services building in B.C. in 2009.

Garrett says he unknowingly exposed himself, his staff members, inmates and correctional officers to asbestos over several days.

“A project in an older building where there’s a chance of having asbestos, there’s a requirement to produce a pre-construction, hazardous materials report and that should have been with the tender package,” he said.

“It wasn’t. I remember writing and asking for that two to three times,” said Garrett. He says he never got it.

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Asbestos registry demanded for federal public buildings

UK health and safety chiefs hit back in asbestos app row

An asbestos removers’ trade group had criticised the HSEs new Beware Asbestos app, but now the authority has moved to counter criticism

Health and safety chiefs have hit back at claims a new online advice service for North East workers could put people at risk of asbestosis and mesothelioma.

The Beware Asbestos app was attacked by the United Kingdom Asbestos Training Association which said untrained people may be encouraged to try and remove the potentially deadly material themselves.

Now the Health and Safety Executive have moved to counter the criticism, with a spokesman saying the authority was dismayed by the reaction to the campaign, which had won the backing of former Newcastle United defender Stuart Pearce.

“HSE is surprised and disappointed that UKATA appears to be arguing for the removal of free advice aimed at those who might otherwise remain unaware of the risks they face with regards to asbestos,” a spokesman said.

“HSE’s Beware Asbestos campaign is aimed at, and reaching, thousands of trades people and workers who undertake jobs on a daily basis that intentionally or unintentionally disturb asbestos.

“Many of these workers are ignorant of the risks they face when they carry out common tasks such as drilling holes in textured ceilings and replacing old panels around baths.

“The web app takes already existing advice on how to do these tasks safely and presents it in an easy to understand way that workers can carry around with them. “The web app is very clear in stating what jobs tradespeople must not do, and indeed helps them to find and contact licensed asbestos contractors in their area who can do those jobs for them.

“While commercially available training courses, such as those provided by UKATA’s members, play an important part in educating workers on what they must do, it is also vital that as many workers as possible know about the risk they face from asbestos and of the simple measures they can follow to protect themselves.”

Around 2,100 people in the UK are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year and it is almost always fatal, with most of those affected usually dying within 12 months of diagnosis.

The North East – particularly Newcastle, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Sunderland and Hartlepool – is a blackspot for asbestos-related diseases, as it was used in shipbuilding, construction and the automotive industry.

A ‘standardised mortality ratio’ is used to identify blackspots, where a figure of 100 would be the expected number of deaths, given the age of the population. But in North Tyneside the figure is much higher, at 309; in South Tyneside it is 303; across the Tyne and Wear Metropolitan County the figure is 235; and in the North East it is 170.

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UK health and safety chiefs hit back in asbestos app row

Garlock Asbestos Settlement Tied to Quality of Opposing Lawyers, 'High Risk' Facts, Venue

DALLAS, March 6, 2015 /PRNewswire/ — Recently released documents in the Garlock Sealing Technologies’ bankruptcy show that the company decided to settle asbestos claims filed by attorneys from Simon Greenstone Panatier Bartlett, PC, partly because the Texas-based law firm has some of “the best trial lawyers in the country” and the risk of taking the cases to trial was too high.

In a series of internal “major expense project approvals” released March 4, Garlock’s own advisers provided the justification for settling hundreds of asbestos exposure lawsuits. The documents devote multiple pages to cases handled by Simon Greenstone’s predecessor firm, Simon, Eddins & Greenstone.

One document recommended that Garlock approve a $3.1 million settlement involving 19 of the firm’s lawsuits that were awaiting trial in Los Angeles in 2008. The settlement came to roughly $163,157 per case.

“The deal, although rich, is favorable and advisable,” the document states. “First, the per case average is down from what we have recently paid on mesothelioma claims handled by Simon, Eddins & Greenstone in not only California, but in other jurisdictions as well. In the recent past, we have paid Simons (sic), Eddins & Greenstone $300,000 and above on various mesothelioma claims.

“Second, the deal provides certainty relative to very high risk cases, in an extremely bad jurisdiction, being handled by some if (sic) the best trial lawyers in the country,” the document states.

The Garlock communications also reference “high risk” facts and concerns about trial venue.

Garlock sued Simon Greenstone in 2014, claiming the company had been duped into settling certain lawsuits brought by mesothelioma victims fatally injured by asbestos products. The recently released documents provide further justification of Simon Greenstone’s assertion that Garlock settled with Simon Greenstone’s clients because it was a good business decision, according to attorney Michael W. Magner, who represents the firm in that suit.

“Garlock is simply trying to reduce the amount of money it must pay to those harmed by its products,” Mr. Magner says. “As anybody can tell from reading the major expense project approvals, it is clear that Garlock based its decision to settle on the facts of the case, the venue and the quality of the legal representation.

“We have said all along that unsealing the record would prove that Garlock’s suit is nonsense, and these documents are the smoking gun,” Mr. Magner says. “Garlock’s attempts to reduce what the company owes its victims are nothing but revisionist history and an attempt to discourage victims of asbestos products from seeking just compensation. Garlock made a considered decision to do what most civil litigants do: settle. If the company isn’t happy with how those cases turned out, it has no one to blame but its own officers, attorneys and consultants.”

For more information or to obtain electronic versions of the major expense approval reports, contact Amy Hunt at 800-559-4534 or amy@androvett.com.

To view the original version on PR Newswire, visit:http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/garlock-asbestos-settlement-tied-to-quality-of-opposing-lawyers-high-risk-facts-venue-300046630.html

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Garlock Asbestos Settlement Tied to Quality of Opposing Lawyers, 'High Risk' Facts, Venue

Half of all Mr Fluffy asbestos home owners join ACT government buyback

The demolition of Mr Fluffy asbestos homes across Canberra is expected to get under way after June this year with more than half already acquired by the ACT government.

Acting Chief Minister Simon Corbell announced on Friday more than half of all homeowners had accepted offers made through the buyback program, four months before the scheme closes.

Already 511 offers have been accepted from the 1021 affected properties in the ACT.

Mr Corbell said the latest results showed many affected homeowners were taking the opportunity to move on to another property.

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“I encourage homeowners who are still considering whether or not to enter the buyback program to discuss their individual circumstances with the Asbestos Response Taskforce around what support can be provided,” he said in a statement.

The government now owns 131 properties and is overseeing security and maintenance.

A pilot demolition program of a small number of affected properties will start in late March to confirm procurement, demolition and communications processes.

Two of the properties included in the pilot will be public housing.

“The Mr Fluffy response is not only an ACT government, but an ACT community response,” Mr Corbell said.

“It is an issue affecting 58 suburbs across the territory and has a cost to our community of at least $400 million, even after the resale of remediated blocks. It is, and will continue to have, a significant impact on the ACT for years to come.”

This week Chief Minister Andrew Barr said some compulsory acquisitions could be required if affected homeowners decided not to join the buyback scheme before June 30.

He warned homeowners they would not receive a better offer as a result of not signing up.

Mr Corbell said the taskforce would be working closely with the community ahead of the demolition program to ensure safety and security.

“Reducing the impact to the community through efficient scheduling of demolition works will also be a paramount consideration,” he said.

Tenders for the demolitions are being finalised, a spokeswoman for the Asbestos Taskforce said last week.

The government has confirmed it owns affected houses in the following suburbs: Forrest, Ainslie, Downer, Griffith, Hackett, Narrabundah, O’Connor, Watson, Yarralumla, Kambah, Wanniassa, Chapman, Chifley, Curtin, Duffy, Farrer, Fisher, Garran, Holder, Hughes, Lyons, Mawson, Pearce, Rivett, Stirling, Torrens, Waramanga, Weston, Aranda, Charnwood, Cook, Evatt, Flynn, Giralang, Higgins, Holt, Latham, Macgregor, Macquarie, Melba, Page, Scullin, Spence, Weetangera.

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Half of all Mr Fluffy asbestos home owners join ACT government buyback

Tascot carpet factory asbestos removal questioned

Orange County school, closed because of asbestos, is back in session

School is in session again at an Orange County school that was closed for months after asbestos was discovered.

Oak View Elementary was one of three campuses closed when the hazardous mineral fiber was discovered during an 11-campus modernization project in July.

The closures displaced more than 1,600 students, who were being bused to eight other campuses in four school districts at a cost of $50,000 a week.

Most students returned to Oak View Elementary School in Huntington Beach on Tuesday. Lake View and Hope View elementary schools remain closed.

Oak View students in grades 3 through 5 returned to their original classrooms in portable buildings. Second-graders are being taught in portable buildings that had been used for teacher meetings and after-school programs.

First-graders will attend Sun View Elementary School and kindergartners will remain at Pleasant View School, both in Huntington Beach.

Since Oak View was closed in October, more than 600 Oak View students, including kindergartners, have been attending classes at Village View Elementary, Oak View Preschool, Pleasant View School – all in the Ocean View district – and Walter Knott Elementary in Buena Park.

The district is working on a timeline for asbestos cleanup at Oak View.

According to district documents, air samples taken at Oak View in October did not contain asbestos levels above standards set in the federal Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act, which regulates how much asbestos can be present in public buildings including schools.

At a board meeting last week, several parents of Oak View students said they were worried about their children falling behind academically while attending temporary schools.

Twitter: @NicoleShine

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times

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Orange County school, closed because of asbestos, is back in session

OC School Closed For Asbestos Removal Reopens

Huntington Beach, CA –

(FOX 11) After months of asbestos cleanup hundreds of students are returning to a Huntington Beach School Tuesday. Oak View Elementary, which closed in the fall, is welcoming back its second through fifth graders.

RELATED: Students From 2 OC Elementaries Return To Class On Other Campuses, Asbestos Cleanup Continues

RELATED:11 OC Elementary Schools Remain Closed After Asbestos Testing, Students Displaced
RELATED:Displaced Asbestos Students

Kindergarteners will continue to study at Pleasant View Preschool and first graders will stay at Sun View Elementary for the rest of the school year.

The returning students will study in portable classrooms on the campus until the asbestos cleanup has been finished in the main building.

Asbestos concerns prompted the closure of this school, plus two others in the district, after traces of asbestos were found in classrooms and abated asbestos was found in ceiling tiles.

In a recent meeting, parents shared their concerns about the portable classrooms; asking if they were at risk of containing asbestos. The also wondered where their kids food would be prepared, but for the most part many are happy to have their kids coming back.

The cleanup process is ongoing and Ocean View School District is still coming up with a plan for abatement which will be voted on by the school board.

Hope View And Lake View elementary schools are still closed.

This process is expected to cost the district between $7 to 11 Million dollars.

Kindergarteners will continue to study at Pleasant View Preschool and first graders will stay at Sun View Elementary for the rest of the school year.

The returning students will study in portable classrooms on the campus until the asbestos cleanup has been finished in the main building.

Asbestos concerns prompted the closure of this school, plus two others in the district, after traces of asbestos were found in classrooms and abated asbestos was found in ceiling tiles.

In a recent meeting, parents shared their concerns about the portable classrooms; asking if they were at risk of containing asbestos. The also wondered where their kids food would be prepared, but for the most part many are happy to have their kids coming back.

The cleanup process is ongoing and Ocean View School District is still coming up with a plan for abatement which will be voted on by the school board.

Hope View And Lake View elementary schools are still closed.

This process is expected to cost the district between $7 to 11 Million dollars.

Copyright 2014 FOX 11 Los Angeles | Download our mobile app for breaking news alerts | Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

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OC School Closed For Asbestos Removal Reopens

3 months later, O.C. school closed by asbestos scare to reopen

Students displaced from a Huntington Beach grade school will begin returning to campus on Tuesday, more than three months after three schools were closed because of an asbestos scare.

Many of the students who attended the three campuses have been bused to schools elsewhere in Orange County at a cost of $50,000 a week while school officials struggled to deal with the asbestos concerns.

In all, the closures displaced more than 1,600 students.

On Tuesday, students in grades 3 through 5 will return to Oak View Elementary and be reunited with classmates in portable buildings.

Two other campuses, Lake View and Hope View elementary, remained closed.

Since Oak View was closed in October, more than 600 Oak View students, including kindergartners, have been attending classes at Village View Elementary, Oak View Preschool, Pleasant View School – all in the Ocean View district – and Walter Knott Elementary in Buena Park.

The district is working on a timeline for asbestos cleanup at Oak View. The potentially hazardous mineral fiber was discovered at some schools during an 11-campus modernization project that began in July.

When the schools were built decades ago, asbestos was used as fireproofing on metal beams above the ceilings. Over time, asbestos dust began to fall from the beams and settle on classroom ceiling tiles, district records show.

Rising costs caused the district board of trustees to vote last month to delay asbestos removal and modernization construction at Oak View.

According to district documents, air samples taken at Oak View in October did not contain asbestos levels above standards set in the federal Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act, which regulates how much asbestos can be present in public buildings like schools.

At a recent board meeting, several parents of Oak View students said they were worried about their children falling behind academically while attending temporary schools.

The children lack access to computers at Knott Elementary and can’t practice for automated Common Core tests like their peers can, parents said.

Oak View serves a large number of English as a Second Language students and low-income families, many of whom receive free or reduced-price meals at school, according to California Department of Education data. The relocations have divided siblings and disrupted families, some of whom count on social and family services available at Oak View, teachers told the school board last month.

Special-education teacher Rhonda King said one of her second-graders was accustomed to attending Oak View with his sister, a third-grader. Now he is at Village View in Huntington Beach while his sister is bused to Buena Park.

“He tells me he misses his sister,” King said. “That’s not just one family, it’s a lot of families.”

Nicole.Shine@latimes.com

For more education news, follow @NicoleKShine on Twitter

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times

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3 months later, O.C. school closed by asbestos scare to reopen