As we discussed last month, the devastating effects of asbestos exposure on Americans was in no way limited to people who worked for the companies producing it or in high-risk occupations. All too often, asbestos was spread around the environment in the form of cheap, recycled materials used for ground fill and paving projects. Others who never worked directly with asbestos were exposed through dust brought home on the clothing of family members who did — and that exposure was often enough to cause mesothelioma and asbestos lung cancer.
In some cases, sadly, people were exposed to the deadly fiber both at work and in their home environments, as seems to have been the case for a Louisiana man who died recently of malignant mesothelioma. He was exposed to asbestos while working at National Gypsum, according to a wrongful death lawsuit recently filed by his son.
Other companies should be held at least partly responsible, too, however, according to his son. He lived most of his life in the West Bank area of Jefferson Parrish, near New Orleans — an area long known for asbestos contamination. The lawsuit cites his long-term exposure to residential homes and nearby areas contaminated with asbestos-tainted scrap metal, but that wasn’t the only source he might easily have been exposed to.
In the 1950s and 1960s, according to the EPA, a Johns-Manville plant found a handy way to get rid of its production waste: it distributed the asbestos-containing material to local residents, free of charge. Those residents, and even property developers, used it as ground fill and to mix into concrete for sidewalks and driveways. Ordinary activity and weathering eventually deteriorated these materials, causing airborne asbestos to contaminate entire areas.
In the late ‘90s, the EPA found 1,378 sites on the West Bank that were contaminated with asbestos.
The defendants in the wrongful death suit are accused of manufacturing, supplying or otherwise distributing asbestos-containing products into commerce — products known to be unreasonably dangerous. In addition, the lawsuit alleges that some companies failed to test their products adequately; didn’t warn workers or residents of the potential dangers; and never bothered to recall products later found to be hazardous.
The son is suing for unspecified damages for his father’s pain and suffering, disfigurement, physical impairments and loss of quality of life, along with lost earning capacity, medical expenses, and funeral costs, among other losses.
- The Louisiana Record, “Son sues over father’s asbestos exposure, mesothelioma,” Eliza Walker, Dec. 19, 2013
- Environmental Protection Agency press release, “Westbank Asbestos Removal Coming to an End,” June 25, 1998