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December 13, 2018

Yes Rep. McCarthy, You Should Drop Your Asbestos Lawsuit

English: Congressional portrait of Carolyn McC...

U.S. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

New York Times Columnist Joe Nocera has a hard-hitting piece today about the sheer cynicism of U.S. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy’s attempt to get money from some 70 companies for her lung cancer, which was almost certainly caused by her pack-a-day smoking habit.

I wrote about this last week, of course, drawing a lively set of comments from lawyers who accused me of everything from misunderstanding the science — wrong — to lacking objectivity — maybe, but I don’t earn a fee based on the outcome of my reporting. And Nocera also suggests McCarthy should drop her case, because it merely highlights what a corrupt exercise asbestos litigation has become.

I agree McCarthy should, as a member of Congress, drop her attempt to get money from companies that almost certainly had nothing to do with her illness. Her lawsuit, filed by the politically connected law firm of Weitz & Luxenberg, displays what a routine exercise this has become. The suit lists scores of companies that once manufactured, distributed or handled products containing asbestos, from water-heater maker A.O. Smith to Yuba Heat Transfer, which makes heat exchangers for power plants. General Electric General Electric is in there, as is Flowserve Flowserve, the Long Island Power Authority and Goodyear Goodyear Tire.

The actual complaint conveys a sort of poetic imagery in its cynicism: NYAL – WEITZ &LUXENBERG, P.C. STANDARD ASBESTOS COMPLAINT FOR PERSONAL INJURY No.7.

McCarthy claims, in answers to questions from defendants, that she is “fearful of death” and her “asbestos-related condition has disrupted my life, limiting me in my everyday activities and interfering with living a normal life.” Amazingly, for a woman who appears to have been exposed to just about every company in the asbestos-production chain, Rep. McCarthy denies regular exposure to a large number of other dangerous substances including acids, aluminum, coal dust, live chickens, toluene and silica.

She does admit to a 30-year smoking habit, at times amounting to a pack a day, which she ended in May 2013 when she received her diagnosis of lung cancer. But did she know cigarettes cause cancer? Apparently not. In response to the question of whether she was ever told by a physician that she was “suffering from any disease or illness caused by or contributed to by tobacco,” the former nurse answered, under penalty of perjury, “no.” Neither was she “advised by any physician or any other person that use of tobacco products could adversely affect” her health. Nor was she “ever advised to stop using tobacco products.”

I am not sure how anybody could get through nursing school, even decades ago, without learning the dangers of smoking. Or be under the regular care of physicians at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, as McCarthy says she was for the past 16 years, without ever once being alerted to the fact that cigarette smoking is a habit best quit. Or how her physicians at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center failed to mention smoking as a possible cause of her lung cancer.

But her “no” answers could come in handy should the Congresswoman ever decide to sue a tobacco company.

For now, McCarthy is pursuing a claim that she was exposed to stray asbestos fibers brought home on the clothing of her father (cause of death: massive stroke) and brother who worked in shipyards and power plants in the area. But she also found herself in harm’s way when she visited and picked up her father and brother “at various work sites including Navy Yards, Bridges, Hospitals, Schools, Powerhouses and other sites where I breathed the asbestos dust and from asbestos containing equipment being worked on, installed and removed by my father, brother and other workers.”

It’s a well-worn strategy of asbestos lawyers to sue companies like brake-pad manufacturers and gasket makers for contributing to the lung disease of aging workers, most of whom smoked. The theory is they inhaled asbestos fibers as they walked past somebody else replacing the gasket in a steam pipe. Never mind that asbestos exposures must be high and continuous to cause disease; lawyers have come up with a scientifically dubious theory that even one stray fiber can cause cancer, the flutter of a butterfly’s wings causing a metastatic cascade ending in death.

With her complaint, McCarthy carries this to the extreme. How many New York residents have not been exposed to asbestos at least at the level of Rep. McCarthy? Are they all entitled to payouts from Goodyear and GE?

The point of this post isn’t to cause further suffering to McCarthy, who is already going through a horrible experience. But as a lawmaker, she should reconsider engaging in litigation with such dubious underpinnings. I know it is standard practice to sue everybody and sort out the real perps in discovery. That pattern strays into the extortionate with asbestos litigation, however, where each of the named defendants can be rid of a case with the payment of a few thousand dollars, or risk a potentially devastating jury award if they resist.

For an example, look no further than the Weitz & Luxenberg website, which proudly announces a $190 million verdict lawyers there won in July on behalf of five industrial workers who came down with mesothelioma. Those are the stakes for companies that decline to play the game.

More:

Yes Rep. McCarthy, You Should Drop Your Asbestos Lawsuit

LETTER: Asbestos bill would hurt veterans

A new proposal is currently making its way through the state Legislature to delay and deny justice to veterans and other victims who have been exposed to asbestos. Assembly Bill 19 and its Senate companion, Senate Bill 13, would shield corporations from liability and limit the rights of individuals suffering from diseases related to asbestos exposure.

According to the Wisconsin Military Order of the Purple Heart, AB 19 and SB 13 would be particularly harmful to veterans because mesothelioma, a deadly disease contracted from asbestos exposure, affects veterans at alarming rates.

During World War II, thousands of tons of asbestos were used in ship construction. Sailors were commonly exposed to asbestos that was used in pipe insulation and fireproofing. Members of the Marines and Army were exposed to asbestos products in their barracks, vehicles, and military installations. Korea and Vietnam veterans faced similar exposure to asbestos during their deployments.

When these men and women returned from their service, many were exposed to asbestos again in their civilian jobs as factory workers, maintenance technicians, or shipyard employees. While veterans represent 8 percent of the nation’s population, they make up 30 percent of all known mesothelioma deaths that have occurred in the U.S.

AB 19 and SB 13 are being opposed by many veterans and asbestos victim advocates. During the public testimony on these bills, leaders from the Military Order of the Purple Heart and the Wisconsin VFW testified that these bills would unfairly deny justice for veterans suffering from diseases related to asbestos exposure. Unfortunately, despite the concerns raised by veterans and asbestos victims, these bills continue to advance through the Republican-controlled Legislature.

I believe that we should be working to protect veterans and others who have been unknowingly exposed to dangerous working conditions. AB 19 and SB 13 would unfairly tip the scales in favor of large corporations who knowingly exposed veterans and other workers to harmful asbestos products.

Sen. Jennifer Shilling represents Wisconsin’s 32nd Senate District.

Continue at source:

LETTER: Asbestos bill would hurt veterans

Defenseless against Asbestos on Navy Ships

CHICAGO, Feb. 19, 2013 /PRNewswire-iReach/ — Stretching from World War II until the late 1970’s, members of the U.S. military, particularly the naval branch, were among those most affected by asbestos exposure. Asbestos was widely used for insulation purposes on a number of navy ships including aircraft carriers, destroyers, and transport vessels. Asbestos was used because of its remarkable strength, its fire resistant abilities, and its capacity to withstand massive amounts of heat. Since there was an abundance of heat-producing equipment aboard, asbestos was the perfect solution to alleviate the risk of potential fires in case of a malfunction or an attack.

During World War II asbestos helped the US military manufacture ships quickly, efficiently, and at a low cost. What the government and citizens didn’t realize were the dangers and health risks connected to asbestos exposure. Asbestos manufacturing companies knew of the hazards, but withheld the information from the government and sold the asbestos-containing products anyway.

Everyone onboard was exposed to asbestos. Once asbestos is damaged in any way it’s easily breakable or ‘friable’. The tight spaces and lack of proper ventilation left all naval personnel defenseless against the millions of asbestos fibers released into the air. However, some occupations were exposed more than others including: boiler workers, pipefitters, insulators, plumbers, welders, electricians, machinists, and engineers. Asbestos was mainly used in the boiler and engine rooms. However, it was also used to insulate piping systems which were found and exposed throughout the entire ship including the galley and the sleeping quarters.

Additionally, those who were involved with repairing navy vessels in shipyards were also exposed to asbestos. These individuals were constantly exposed due to the high concentrations of asbestos fibers in damaged and war-torn ships.

Statistics show that military personnel, including shipyard workers, who served during the 1940’s to the late 1970’s are at a higher risk of developing mesothelioma than any other occupation. Many of the ships that contained asbestos during World War II were still in service throughout the 1970’s. Removing asbestos from discontinued vessels put workers and veterans at risk since parts of the ships were often sold or used in other military branches, which again lead to additional asbestos exposure.

Asbestos doesn’t expire. In fact, it gets worse with age. If you’re a veteran or know of any veteran’s who have been exposed to asbestos and have an asbestos related disease such as mesothelioma, legal help is available to receive compensation for your medical bills and emotional strain. Contact an attorney today to know your options.

If you or a family member has been diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos related disease due to exposure during your military service or on the job, you may have grounds for a legal claim. The Chicago mesothelioma lawyers of Cooney and Conway can provide you with a free consultation to discuss your case.

Sources: 
http://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/asbestos/index.asp 

Media Contact: Ali Hayes Cooney & Conway, 312-436-2439, mainDesk@cooneyconway.com

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Originally posted here – 

Defenseless against Asbestos on Navy Ships