- By Shaniqua Williams
Because it has excellent fire resistance, asbestos was commonly used in building materials before 1970. As long as they remain undisturbed, products such as ceiling tiles, insulation, and flooring represent little to no concern. However, when asbestos-containing materials are broken, cut, or chipped, a health hazard is bound to follow, as they will inevitably release toxic particles in the air. Upon inhalation, asbestos fibers attach themselves to the tissue of the lungs or the esophagus and, in unfortunate cases, they will lead to mesothelioma, lung cancer, or other serious pulmonary disease.
A settlement of $80 million was reached in a class action case concerning the asbestos removal which took place during the renovation of the Jackson County Courthouse nearly 30 years ago. Excepting attorney fees and litigation costs, the sum of money will cover the medical examination of up to 7,500 people who were exposed to asbestos, including jurors, county employees, attorneys, and jail inmates. Individuals who can provide adequate evidence of having been in the courthouse for at least 80 hours while renovation was ongoing will qualify for a free annual medical examination, whereas those who spent the same amount of time in the building between 1986 and 2007, after the project was completed, will be provided with a screening every five years.
David Elsea and Jeanne Morgan filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of a group of people whose exposure to asbestos was claimed to have been caused by U.S. Engineering Company. During a 2014 hearing, Morgan testified hearing that asbestos dust was covering almost everything in her office. Other witnesses said that workers inadvertently caused asbestos dust to spread through the building, taking no preventive measures in this respect, as well as that ventilation was not used during the renovation project, which resulted in thick layers of asbestos dust polluting the entire structure. "The particles would be all over the papers", Morgan later testified. According to the plaintiff, asbestos dust from the workers' boots was also lingering on the stairway and in the hallways.
Since it would have been more costly and potentially deadly to wait until some of the exposed people developed asbestos-related disease such as mesothelioma or asbestosis, a settlement was unanimously agreed upon. The settlement is not funded with county tax dollars.
Asbestos fibers cannot be destroyed. When they are inhaled, they reach deep into the lungs, creating scar tissue and causing different health problems. Sometimes, it can take decades for the first symptoms to show up, after which survival chances are low. Nancy Lopez, one of Morgan's co-workers and administrative assistant to a Jackson County judge, died of mesothelioma in 2010. Her family filed a wrongful death claim against U.S. Engineering and settled their case for $10.4 million.
People who developed a disease after they were exposed to asbestos at their workplace are eligible for financial compensation, which one of our experienced lawyers can help them recover from asbestos trust funds. If you or a family member has pleural plaques, lung cancer, asbestosis, pulmonary fibrosis, or any other diseases which occurred as a consequence of occupational asbestos exposure, we strongly encourage you to contact us at your earliest convenience, since time is unfortunately limited when it comes to taking legal action.