In 2009, a long-term former employee of GM&O Railroad died of lung cancer. In 1957, he began working at GM&O’s rail yard on the west side of Bloomington. He worked at that location for 15 years, and then he was transferred from Illinois to another GM&O facility, a company shop, in Paducah, Kentucky. During the entire 15-year period he spent at the Bloomington rail yard, he was exposed to asbestos, and that exposure continued after his transfer to Paducah.
His family believes that his exposure to asbestos during those years of working for the railroad are what caused his lung cancer and that GM&O could have prevented it. The family argued that GM&O knew or should have know that exposing its workers to high levels of airborne asbestos fibers was dangerous, but it never bothered to warn the man or its other workers.
They made their case in a McLean County courtroom recently and, after a two-week trial, a jury agreed. That jury has just awarded his surviving family members $1.4 million in compensation for his wrongful death.
As we mentioned in our last post on this blog, scientists have known that asbestos causes deadly illnesses such as asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer for 100 years. Furthermore, workers in the railroad industry have historically been at high risk for asbestos-related diseases because asbestos can be found in a wide range of products commonly used on trains and in rail yards.
In the rail industry until the mid-70s or later, asbestos could be found in everything from packing materials to trains’ boiler insulation, clutch assemblies and brake linings. These materials shed tiny asbestos fibers whenever they are exposed to friction, which meant that the very air at rail yards and nearby facilities was often filled with them. When inhaled, the fibers can cause a number of deadly diseases, including asbestos lung cancer.
However successful, a wrongful death lawsuit is never a victory. Money can never replace a lost loved one or fully hold wrongdoers accountable for their actions. Still, when as many as 200 new cases of mesothelioma, and untold numbers of asbestosis and lung cancer cases, are still diagnosed every year, these lawsuits are still essential in order to provide for the needs of innocent families bereft by the consequences of irresponsible asbestos use.
Source: Bloomington Pantagraph, “Family to get $1.4 million in asbestos lawsuit,” June 26, 2013