Mesothelioma (Mess-oh-theal-e-oh-ma) was once an extremely rare form of cancer that effected few Americans. In the late 1960’s and 1970’s, cases of mesothelioma began to skyrocket. Doctors could not figure out what was bringing about these new cases of a typically rare disorder. After extensive and frantic research, it was discovered that long-term exposure to asbestos dust was a common factor in nearly every case of mesothelioma diagnosed in these decades. By the 1980’s and 1990’s, the link was clearly established and asbestos was all but outlawed. Below is an overview of mesothelioma and legal claims that can redress a person that contracts the disease through exposure to asbestos dust.
What Exactly Is Mesothelioma?
Many internal organs of the human body are covered by thin tissues call mesothelium. These organs include the area surrounding the heart, the abdomen, and—most notably—the lungs. Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that forms on these thin lining tissues. The cells that make up these tissues slowly become cancerous and grow outward, into the organ. This process is very, very slow. Thus, many individuals don’t show any symptoms at all for the first decade of the disease and symptoms come on slowly from that point forward. Depending on where the tumors have developed, the symptoms can include coughing fits, abdominal pains, or general and overwhelming fatigue. Currently, no cure exists for mesothelioma, though treatment is available and fairly effective in the early stages of the disease. Mesothelioma cannot be diagnosed without x-rays and proper medical examinations, so visiting a doctor is key.
What Causes Mesothelioma?
As discussed above, mesothelioma was once a nearly unknown type of cancer. It is now known that the greatest cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos dust. Asbestos dust exposure accounts for over 80% of diagnosed mesothelioma cases. Asbestos formerly was widely used to insulate wires, fireproof buildings, and soundproof apartments. When stationary and undisturbed, asbestos poses no danger to people. However, when the asbestos is moved, disrupted, or agitated, microscopic dust particulars break free and enter the air. When these fibers are breathed into lungs or swallowed, the fibers bind to the thin tissues of organs and encourage the development of the cancer. Even though asbestos is no longer used in construction, many buildings still contain the material inside walls, on ceilings, and insulating wires. Additionally, symptoms of mesothelioma can take several decades after exposure to surface, meaning those that were exposed years ago may not be exhibiting symptoms. These two factors make mesothelioma still a danger to people today.
What Legal Remedies Exist For Exposure To Mesothelioma?
When mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos, the law may offer redress for the injury. Product liability claims are one source of redress. Asbestos is not manufactured defectively, but a jury may find that asbestos-containing products are defectively designed or require adequate warnings. However, Kansas recognizes the “state of the art” defense. This defense prevents liability from attaching so long as the manufacturer’s design or warnings addressed all dangers it knew of or could have known of when the product was made. Because the dangers of asbestos were unknown at the time most asbestos was manufactured, the state of the art defense may prevent liability from attaching. However, as the Kansas Supreme Court noted in Patton v. Hutchinson Wil-Rich Manufacturing Co., when a large danger becomes known to the manufacturer, they must make a reasonable post-sale warning. Thus, a manufacturer must take steps to attempt to warn not only buyers of the asbestos, but also those that may be placed in danger, such as the owner of the business located in the building with asbestos.
Should I Opt In To A Class Action Lawsuit For Mesothelioma?
Television and radio advertisements are flooded with advertisements seeking individuals to join in class action lawsuits against asbestos manufacturers. A class action is a single lawsuit for multiple plaintiffs that suffer a similar injury from the same source. A class action for mesothelioma might be brought by all workers of a construction site that removed or installed asbestos products against that manufacturer. However, opting in to a class action is completely optional. There are undoubted benefits to doing so: there is no “work” on the part of a class member outside of deciding to opt in. But opting into a class action gives up many rights and much potential recovery. In a class action, class members will not get to offer evidence of their own, personal injuries. Instead, the class representatives will present evidence of “general injury” suffered by class members. Class members will get a payment based upon this “generalized” amount—not based upon the actual injuries, suffering, and anguish experienced.
Rather than opting in to a lawsuit, an individual is always free to bring his or her own claim for damages. This will involve hiring an attorney, undergoing medical examinations, and otherwise pursuing the lawsuit. However, the benefits are plentiful. First, the individual—and the individual alone—will decide if a settlement offer is acceptable. The individual will also be able to present evidence of his or her own injury, rather than a generalized injury of the class. This means that the amount awarded will be specifically to address all of the individual’s injuries and damages. Opting in to a class action is a giant leap of faith that is often taken without properly understanding the consequences. Before opting in, it is always wise to at least contact an attorney regarding your injuries.
Mesothelioma is one of the most tragic diseases to effect modern America. The long-festering disease is still emerging in several individual exposed to asbestos-based products decades ago. Further, demolition and construction of old buildings can expose workers and other individuals to the toxic fibers that cause mesothelioma. If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, contacting an experienced attorney is vital. Doing so ensures that you will receive full and fair redress for the disease caused by another. Anything less is insufficient and unfair.