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A California appeals court recently upheld a substantial multimillion dollar jury verdict handed down in a mesothelioma cancer lawsuit brought by a husband and wife to claim that the husband’s rare form of cancer was caused by his employer’s negligent use of carcinogenic building materials. In its decision, the California Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s $25 million verdict awarded to the plaintiffs for damages caused by the husband’s testicular cancer diagnosis which they claimed resulted from defendant Fluor Enterprise Inc. and Middle East Fluor’s use of asbestos containing materials in their overseas facilities.

According to the mesothelioma cancer lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court in March 2018, the husband plaintiff was employed by the National Iranian Oil Company between 1960 until 1979, during which time he performed his duties at various oil refineries and facilities in the Organization of Methods and Systems department of the company. The plaintiffs’ lawsuit asserted that the defendants used asbestos-containing materials in insulation materials used in the overseas sights, after the material was effectively banned in the United States and further did not employ certain safety techniques that it did so in its United States operations.

The asbestos cancer lawsuit claims that as a result of the defendants’ inability to follow reasonable safety precautions that they were adhering to in the United States, the plaintiff developed a rare and deadly form of cancer called mesothelioma. The disease commonly affects thin linings of tissue surrounding the lungs and abdominal cavity, though in this case the plaintiff developed testicular cancer. Developing mesothelioma is directly linked to exposure to asbestos, a mineral that was once commonly used in insulation materials such as the ones manufactured, sold, and installed by the defendants in this case.

Pharmaceutical and cosmetics giant Johnson & Johnson recently revealed in filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission that the company has set aside just under $4 billion in “talc related reserves” to cover billions in settlements related to lawsuits claiming that the company’s talcum powder products are carcinogenic. Further, the company stated that the monies set aside were for “litigation expenses,” which could indicate that the funds could be used to pay for future settlements to resolve hundreds or even potentially thousands of talcum powder asbestos cancer lawsuits across the country.

According to Johnson & Johnson’s filing with federal regulators in Washington, D.C., the company faces an estimated 25,000 talcum powder cancer lawsuits in state and federal courts across the country, most of which are related to the sale of its iconic Baby Powder. Many of those lawsuits claim that the victims developed mesothelioma and other serious forms of cancer from exposure to asbestos fibers contained in the product, which the company knew about but did not provide warning to consumers about the risks.

Of the $3.9 billion set aside by Johnson & Johnson, $2.1 billion is allocated to pay for a talcum powder cancer lawsuit verdict recently upheld by the Missouri state supreme court, which although reduced the jury’s initial award of $4.69 billion, allowed billions to stand. In that case, 22 plaintiffs claimed that they developed mesothelioma cancer from years of using asbestos-contaminated Baby Powder made by Johnson & Johnson. Attorneys for the plaintiffs produced internal Johnson & Johnson documents which showed that the company knew as far back as the 1970s that the talc sourced for its products could be laden with carcinogenic asbestos.

A New York City judge recently denied a defendant asbestos company’s request to have a take-home mesothelioma cancer lawsuit thrown out of court, finding that the arguments brought by the defendant’s lawyers on its behalf were insufficient to have the matter tossed out. As a result, the plaintiff and victim in the case have cleared a major legal obstacle to having the case heard by a jury and perhaps awarded compensation for the harm suffered as a result of asbestos exposure caused by the defendant.

According to the take-home mesothelioma cancer lawsuit, filed in New York City Supreme Court, the plaintiff developed mesothelioma cancer from exposure to asbestos fibers brought home by her husband on his work clothes while he was employed as a dredgeman and tugboat engineer from the early 1960s until 1987. Specifically, the plaintiff alleged that she and her husband were exposed to asbestos fibers from engine gaskets produced by defendant company Fel-Pro.

To support her claim, the plaintiff produced testimony from a witness who worked with the victim’s husband who stated that the deceased worked with Fel-Pro gaskets and that cutting and replacing the old worn out gaskets would create dust that they would breath in and adhere to their work clothes. The plaintiff claimed that it was this asbestos dust from the Fel-Pro gaskets which she was exposed to when laundering her husband’s work clothes, ultimately leading to her mesothelioma cancer diagnosis .

Wildfires ravaged forests in the state of Montana are putting a so-called SuperFund site contaminated with asbestos at risk of spreading carcinogenic particles in the air, which could endanger the lives of not only the fire crews battling the blaze but also residents nearby. The perils faced by the nearby towns are just the latest chapter in a decades-old story surrounding the vermiculite mine once owned and operated by W.R. Grace & Co., which has contaminated the nearby town of Libby and led to years of litigation surrounding mesothelioma diagnosis as a result of asbestos emanating from the mine.

The vermiculite mine outside of Libby operated for nearly 70 years, and provided the substance to create insulation material and gardening products, all the while spewing out deadly carcinogenic asbestos fibers into the air and water. Both vermiculite and asbestos are naturally occurring minerals that can be found side by side one another. If companies sourcing and processing vermiculite do not take proper safety precautions, or survey whether it is even safe to operate such a mine, then innocent workers and residents can be at risk of serious health complications like mesothelioma cancer.

As a result of the decades of toxic asbestos contamination, the Environmental Protection Agency designated the area a Superfund site. Under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980, a Superfund trust can be set up by Congress to handle emergency and hazardous waste sites needing long-term cleanup such as the one in Libby. Despite the designation by the federal government, W.R. Grace & Co. has still not followed through with efforts to abate the area of asbestos and create a safe environment in which to work.

The surviving son of a deceased Frito-Lay employee has filed a proposed class action lawsuit against his father’s former company alleging that his father passed away from cancer due to asbestos exposure at the factory where he worked. The claim filed by the Texas man seeks to recover compensation not only on behalf of his deceased father but also on behalf of any other Frito-Lay workers who may have developed asbestos related cancer while working at the facility in Mississippi where the plaintiff’s father was employed.

According to the mesothelioma cancer lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, the victim worked as a machine operator and pest control worker at the Frito-Lay plant in Jackson, Mississippi from 1974 until 1999. The plaintiff claims that his father worked with pesticide spray, which led to his cancer diagnosis, and that there was asbestos in the facility about which the company knew but chose not to provide any warning to workers.

“Families have gone through tremendous debts behind losing their loved ones. Some of these people had to pay for their own funerals, because they didn’t have any money. These families need to be financially compensated but also have some appreciation shown. Frito-Lay has made billions of dollars off the backs of these employees and then they just discard them like tools,” the plaintiff said to local media earlier this December.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra recently secured a ruling from a U.S. District Court to compel the Environmental Protection Agency to improve its data collection practices accounting for the importation of asbestos-containing products into the United States. The ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Edward Chen of the Northern District of California will require the Environmental Protection Agency to amend its Chemical Data Reporting rule to improve what the court deemed to be “information gathering deficiencies” created by the agency’s voluntary reporting process for asbestos importers.

“Asbestos kills thousands of Americans each year. It is a known public health hazard,” said Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “The EPA can’t run from those truths. And it can’t run from reasonably available data to evaluate whether certain uses of asbestos pose an unreasonable risk to human health and the environment. Today’s ruling is a critical first step toward eliminating exemptions that allow this unsafe chemical to harm our communities, including our workers and children.”

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that kills thousands of people every year. It was once used in thousands of industrial, commercial, and military applications for its heat-resistant properties and ability to be molded to fit a variety of uses. Unfortunately, this seemingly versatile mineral is also directly linked to developing serious forms of cancer, including mesothelioma, a disease for which there is currently no definitive cure.

A recent study commissioned by an advocacy nonprofit group has determined that the methods used by cosmetics companies to test the safety of the talc in their products are inadequate and that as many as 15% of talc-based consumer products could contain deadly asbestos fibers. The study, commissioned by the Environmental Working Group found that the testing method which the cosmetics industry has voluntarily adopted is not sensitive enough to screen talc for asbestos and lacks the precision of electron microscopy which can properly detect asbestos fibers in talc.

Environmental Working Group’s vice president noted that the nonprofit has identified more than 2,000 consumer cosmetics products containing talc, which means contaminated talcum powder products could potentially put thousands of innocent Americans at risk of asbestos exposure. Both talc and asbestos are naturally occurring minerals that can be found in deposits side by side one another, which means that if companies sourcing and processing talc do not take reasonable safety precautions then their products could be carcinogenic.

The analysis was conducted by the Scientific Analytical Institute, with the results published in the journal Environmental Health Insights. The study used a method known as electron microscopy to analyze talc samples, which is far more advanced than what cosmetics companies currently use. As of right now, the Food and Drug Administration does not require any testing at all of talc, a practice that only compounds the risk many consumers face when shopping for safe products on store shelves. Instead, the nation’s largest drug regulator recommends solely that companies sourcing talc to carefully select mines in order to avoid cross contamination between the desired talc and deadly asbestos fibers.

The Montana Supreme Court recently took up oral arguments on the appeal of a $100 million judgment that ordered an insurance company to pay the state for damages that it itself was ordered to pay to victims of asbestos exposure at a vermiculite mine. The state of Montana is seeking payments from National Indemnity Company, owned by Berkshire Hathaway, to cover settlement claims from residents of the town of Libby, who were exposed to deadly asbestos fibers emanating from a mine owned and operated by WR Grace since 1963.

Libby residents had filed lawsuits against the state of Montana, claiming that the state knew for decades about the environmental health risks from the asbestos fibers coming from WR Grace’s vermiculite mine but did not warn the victims of the danger. National Indemnity Company had underwritten the state of Montana for a period of years during the 1970s, the time during which much of the town of Libby was exposed to the carcinogenic asbestos fibers from the mine.

In 2019, a state district court judge ruled that National Indemnity Company was required to reimburse the state of Montana for the settlement it had reached with the plaintiffs, per the terms of the policy that existed between the insurance company and the state. Lawsuits against the state of Montana over the asbestos exposure from the Libby mine have been ongoing since 2002, and National Indemnity Company has resisted its contractual duties to underwrite the state for liability in such lawsuits.

The global COVID-19 pandemic has hit all facets of our society hard, but some already long-suffering communities in our country are being especially impacted due to a decades-long health crisis. One such place is Libby, Montana, where a now shuttered vermiculite mine has poisoned the soil, air, and water of local residents who have received diagnoses for asbestos-related health conditions by the hundreds and thousands, which makes them especially vulnerable to complications from COVID-19.

Lincoln County, which is home to the town of Libby, ranks near the top of the nation’s mortality rate for asbestos-related mortality rates. Hundreds in the county have succumbed to asbestos-related diseases, which include asbestosis and mesothelioma cancer. In Libby, at least one in 10 residents suffers from an asbestos-related illness. While Lincoln County was mostly spared from the coronavirus, the virus’ fall surge has led to an increase in cases amongst a population with preexisting conditions due to asbestos exposure.

Although the Libby vermiculite mine closed for good in the 1990s, in the decades prior the town and its residents had been exposed to asbestos spewing from the site. Vermiculite itself does not contain asbestos, but the two are both naturally occurring minerals that are often found side by side one another. If companies sourcing and processing vermiculite do not exercise due caution, innocent workers and nearby residents can be put at risk for exposure to the dangerous carcinogen.

Congress recently failed to pass a bill that would have amended an existing federal law to prohibit the manufacturing and sales of asbestos, or any other products that contain the deadly carcinogen. The impasse came after the bill failed to pass through the House of Representatives when partisan bickering arose over an amendment that would have preserved the right of asbestos cancer victims to hold negligent companies accountable in a court of law and seek compensation for the harm suffered.

The failure to send the bill from the House to the Senate was a blow to asbestos victims and advocates who had pushed hard for the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act to become law and help save countless lives. The bill had previously cleared the House Energy and Commerce Committee by an overwhelming margin, by a vote of 47-1 and had broad bi-partisan support in the Senate. However, a late amendment by Democrats essentially killed the legislation after Republicans took issue with the prospect of litigation over talcum-powder asbestos cancer lawsuits.

The added language to the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act would not have changed the definition of asbestos as far as cosmetics regulations under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) and for determining whether a cosmetics product contains asbestos either as an ingredient or as an accessory mineral to an ingredient, such as talc. Companies like Johnson & Johnson are embroiled in legal fights with plaintiffs who claim they developed mesothelioma and other serious forms of cancer as a result of exposure to asbestos fibers in talc-based cosmetics products.

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