$7.5 Million Award to Construction Worker Exposed to Asbestos

January 20, 2015

black-construction-worker-in-south-side-chicago-10-1973.jpgA former construction worker in California recently won $7.5 million against several companies responsible for his asbestos exposure. The construction worker helped install underground water and sewer lines under the Sacramento Valley, working with asbestos-containing pipes and cement and ultimately developing mesothelioma. Asbestos exposure lawyers at Pintas & Mullins detail this case and others just like it throughout the country.

The plaintiff in this case worked in construction during the 1970s and 80s, when the dangers of asbestos were known and proven. Although asbestos was entirely banned in the 1980s, the asbestos industry lobbied the government to overturn the ban, which it did in 1991. That case was the Corrosion Proof Fittings v. the Environmental Protection Agency. More on this issue can be found here, on the EPA's website.

Medical experts, government officials and industry executives have known about the fatal side effects of asbestos exposure since the 1930s, when the causal relationship between asbestos and caner was proven. Asbestos was originally considered a miracle product, since it was relatively inexpensive and had a wide range of applications, from fireproofing to insulating.

Asbestos was used in countless industries, exposing countless workers and their families. Perhaps the most disheartening fact of this devastation is that companies knew exactly how dangerous asbestos exposure was; they knew it was the only known cause of asbestosis, a chronic lung disorder, and mesothelioma, an extraordinarily fatal cancer. Asbestos is also a contributing factor to most lung cancers.

The plaintiff in California is a perfect example of an innocent employee now suffering from cancer caused by asbestos. The man worked with pipes made from concrete-asbestos materials, and his work would generate enormous amounts of asbestos dust. He often left work covered from head to toe with this dust.

When asbestos becomes airborne and breathed into the lungs, the fibers remain lodged in lung tissue for decades. Over many years, the asbestos fibers cause inflammation, scarring, and cellular changes consistent with tumor development. Although it takes a long time - often decades - for asbestos to develop into cancer, it takes only a few months for that cancer to spread to other organs and advance into its later, and most fatal stages.

Whether or not someone exposed to asbestos ultimately develops mesothelioma, lung cancer, or asbestosis is largely determined by genetics, lifestyle, duration and amount of exposure, and simple bad luck. You may have seen news headlines lately on this last point: that a large percentage of adult cancers are caused by random cell mutations. That is why some people work with asbestos for many years and never develop cancer, while others are exposed only briefly and are later diagnosed with mesothelioma.

The California plaintiff clearly knew exactly when, where and how he was exposed to asbestos, and sued the companies responsible for his exposure. Other mesothelioma and lung cancer patients have no idea when they were exposed to asbestos and are concerned that they have no legal ability to gain justice.

That is where our firm comes in. We have a wide network of legal professionals, medical experts, and investigators that enable us to accept clients throughout the country, and determine the when and how of where you were exposed. We know exactly what companies manufactured asbestos-containing products, and what types of industries had the most exposure.

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Auto Part Company Agrees to $360 in Asbestos Settlements

January 14, 2015

6033243770_ed776df82f_b.jpgGarlock Sealing Technologies, the top American manufacturer of industrial gasket products, recently agreed to settle all asbestos injury claims for $358 million. The plan was born out of Garlock's bankruptcy case, during which the company promised to pay off all present and future asbestos claims. Asbestos cancer lawyers at Pintas & Mullins applaud Garlock for upholding this promise.

Garlock's parent company, EnPro Industries, stated that he plan will provide payments to all claimants who suffer from asbestos-related diseases from exposure to Garlock's products. Garlock entered bankruptcy in June 2010, when more than 900,000 asbestos claims were pending. These asbestos claims largely contributed to the company's bankruptcy.

Throughout the 20th century Garlock Sealing Technologies used asbestos to make many products, such as gaskets, packaging materials, seals, and sheet gaskets. The lawsuits against Garlock involve not just Garlock's employees, but also pipe fitters, boiler mechanics, and other workers who were exposed to asbestos through Garlock's products. In 2008, for example, a former boiler mechanic won a $12 million verdict against Garlock for his development of mesothelioma, a cancer caused by asbestos exposure.

Today, about 100,000 similar claims are pending against Garlock. Similar to many of its competitors, such as Union Carbondale and W.R. Grace & Co., Garlock is choosing to file for bankruptcy and establish an asbestos trust to pay these claims.

Union Carbondale and W.R. Grace are often named as co-defendants in asbestos suits against Garlock, as these companies also made asbestos-containing products with a wide range of applications. Their products have endangered and sickened employees from many occupations in every state. Among these workers include plumbers, miners, electricians, steel workers, factory workers, and countless others. Of course, those who worked specifically for Garlock manufacturing its asbestos-containing products were also exposed.

Garlock is infamous for the amount of litigation it faces, often cited as one of the most-sued companies in American history. It has already paid more than $1.4 billion in asbestos settlements in judgments over the last 35 years.

Under its bankruptcy claim, claimants can choose one of two options: either join a group that is subject to less scrutiny and faster payouts and agree to a maximum $1,000 claim, or pursue litigation, which is more timely and recoveries are not guaranteed. EnPro has agreed to pay up to $30 million to fund settlements if need be.

Asbestos-Related Diseases


When breathed into the lungs, asbestos fibers lodge into the lung tissue and remain there permanently. Over many years (often between 20 and 50 years), these asbestos fibers migrate into the surrounding tissue, change cell DNA, and cause serious illnesses. Among the diseases known to be caused by exposure to asbestos include: lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis. More information on asbestos-related illnesses can be found here.

In the U.S., up to 4,000 people are diagnosed with an illness caused by exposure every year. Mesothelioma is the most severe of these illnesses, as it is incurable and among the most fatal cancers. There are four types of mesothelioma, though all occur in the thin lining - the mesothelium - surrounding the internal organs, such as the heart, lungs, and abdomen. The most common type is pleural mesothelioma, which affects the lungs.

Lung cancer is also highly associated with asbestos exposure. Many studies have proven that asbestos and cigarette smoking have a synergistic affect in the lungs, causing cancer to develop faster and more aggressively than if someone was exposed to only one of these. Thus, anyone who has been diagnosed with lung cancer, even if they are a former smoker, may be able to file an asbestos claim.

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$5 Million Verdict against Philip Morris Upheld for Lifelong Smoker

January 8, 2015

504708410_07231d4d77_b.jpgIn July 2014, a Florida jury awarded the widow of a lifelong smoker $5.5 million for his smoking-related illness. The defendant in this case, Philip Morris USA, attempted to appeal the verdict, though the Florida appeals court upheld the July opinion. Lung cancer lawyers at Pintas & Mullins detail this case, and how other former smokers or their families could file similar lawsuits.

The lawsuit was filed by Florence Mulholland on behalf of her deceased husband, who passed way from lung cancer from smoking cigarettes. In her case, Mulholland had to prove that her husband suffered from a smoking-related illness, that he was addicted to cigarettes containing nicotine, and that his addiction led to the stated illness.

This is widely considered a landmark case, as it is the first federal tobacco verdict that has been upheld on appeal in the state of New York. The appeals court also rejected Philip Morris' argument that David Mulholland's testimony should not have been allowed in court. In his testimony, David stated that he would not have started smoking cigarettes as a teen in the 1960s if he had known smoking causes cancer.

Mulholland's case was filed in 2005 and went to trial in 2013. Ultimately, the jury awarded Florence Mulholland and her daughter $5.5 million for their immense loss. About a million of that award was paid by a second defendant, an auto repair shop where David worked. Auto repair shop employees are exposed to a certain toxic substance, asbestos, that can cause or contribute to lung cancer development.

Asbestos, Smoking and Lung Cancer


Asbestos is a fiber-like mineral that was used widely throughout the 20th century in building materials, auto parts, and in shipyards among many, many other industries. Nearly everyone has been exposed to asbestos at some point in their lives, though more often than not the exposure occurs without notice. When asbestos fibers are breathed into the lungs - most often through occupational exposure -the fibers become lodged in the lung tissue. Over a long time, usually between 20 and 50 years, the fibers affect the surrounding tissue and cause cellular changes that lead to lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis.

Exposure to asbestos is the basis for many injury lawsuits filed by victims with lung cancer or their surviving families. Even former smokers are able to pursue injury claims against any defendant who exposed them to asbestos at some point in time, as asbestos is a known carcinogen that can, as mentioned either contribute to or directly cause cancer development.

Another win for lung cancer plaintiffs recently occurred in Florida, after a million-dollar verdict for a widow was upheld against Phillip Morris. Nikitas Damianakis was a lifelong smoker who ultimately passed away from his smoking-related illness. His widow, Elaine, sued Philip Morris for the wrongful death of her husband, who died from complications of emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Their lawsuit stemmed from the Engle class action in Florida that, in the mid-1990s, sued American cigarette manufacturers and won more than $145 billion for those who contracted serious illnesses from becoming addicted to cigarettes. In 2006, the Florida Supreme Court decertified the class, yet allowed each individual plaintiff to sue Big Tobacco on their own personal claims.

Continue reading "$5 Million Verdict against Philip Morris Upheld for Lifelong Smoker" »

Illinois Cancer Patients Granted More Time to File Suit

December 17, 2014

cancer-and-lung-disease-hazard.jpgCertain lung cancer and mesothelioma patients in Illinois now have four years - instead of the previous two - to file a claim against the companies responsible for their illness. Patients impacted by this law change are those affiliated with construction or improvement to real estate. Lung cancer lawyers at Pintas & Mullins are grateful to report on this new law.

The extension of the statute of limitations (SOL) is important for many reasons, not least of which because of the severity of asbestos-caused lung cancer and mesothelioma. Asbestos is a fiber-like mineral that is commonly found in insulation, pipe coverings, and other friction materials, and was used in nearly all buildings, ships and automobiles until the mid-1970s.

Although it was banned by the EPA in the 70s, the total ban was overturned, and asbestos continues to be used to today. It is also still quite prevalent in older buildings, vehicles, sea vessels, and other products.

Another important reason why the SOL has been extended has to do with the time period between when asbestos exposure occurs and when cancer ultimately is found. Typically, it takes between 20-50 years for asbestos fibers to develop into lung cancer, mesothelioma, asbestosis, or another asbestos-related illness.

To get a better picture of how this will affect real victims of exposure, one can look at a case filed in March 2014, Nina Simone v. Etta James Corp. The plaintiff in this case, Nina Simone, worked for 25 years installing asbestos exposure in Chicago. In the mid-1980s, Simone moved to New York where she currently resides.

In 1988, Simone was diagnosed with asbestosis, a severe respiratory disease; just one year later Simone was diagnosed with mesothelioma. She filed suit against Etta James Corp., which manufactured the asbestos insulation she worked with for so many years. The court ruled that, in cases of toxic exposure, the injury occurs at the place and time of exposure - in this case, in Chicago between 1955 and 1980. On appeal, the New York Supreme Court reversed the decision, stating that the New York laws should be applied.

In New York, the statue starts to run at the time the illness is discovered, so Simone would have had three years to file a lawsuit after her 1989 mesothelioma diagnosis. If her case had been subject to Illinois law, she would have had only two years to file.

For most cancer patients even the smallest amount of time is a big deal. Only about 40% of mesothelioma patients live past the first year of diagnosis, and that time should be spent with friends, family and loved ones. Allowing more time for cancer patients to consider legal action against the parties responsible for their exposure is an expression of compassion that is rare in our current criminal justice system.

People who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma must face how, where, and with who they will be treated. They and their families face exorbitant medical bills and the financial burden can devastate families. That is where we come in. We know that a cancer diagnosis changes the lives of patients and their loved ones, so we take on the responsibilities of finding out when, where, and how your exposure occurred. We never charge any out-of-pocket attorneys' fees, and only get paid if we are successful in your case. If you are not awarded any money, we do not get paid.

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Lung Cancer Case Ends in $24 Billion Verdict

December 15, 2014

3344761178_322fd39b27_o.jpgIn the summer of 2014, a jury in Florida imposed a punitive damage award of $24 billion on R.J. Reynolds, the country's second-largest tobacco companies. The lawsuit against Reynolds was filed on behalf of a man who died of lung cancer at the age of 36. Lung cancer lawyers at Pintas & Mullins detail this case, and why Reynolds isn't concerned about a $24 billion verdict.

Michael Johnson Sr. passed away in 1996 after two decades of smoking cigarettes; specifically, Kool cigarettes, manufactured by R.J. Reynolds. His widow filed a lawsuit on behalf of his estate, accusing Reynolds of deliberately hiding the health risks of their products.

The trial lasted four weeks, and the jury deliberated over two days. Their final verdict awarded Johnson's widow $17 million in compensatory damages and $23.6 billion in punitive damages. "Compensatory" damages are awarded to compensate the plaintiff for the injuries they have suffered, such as medical bills, lost income, and lost life. "Punitive" damages can only be awarded in certain circumstances, when the jury feels the defendant should be punished and deterred from similar misconduct, intentionally disregarding the rights of the plaintiff.

This type of massive award against Big Tobacco is rare but not unheard of. In 2002, a Los Angeles ordered Philip Morris, a cigarette manufacturer, to pay $28 billion in punitive damages. Four years after that award, the Florida Supreme Court decertified a class action against Big Tobacco, which succeeded in the amount of $145 billion. This class action was known as the Engle case, and although the award was reversed, the Engle claimants were still allowed to sue individually. This is what set the stage for Michael Johnson's case, and thousands of others like it in Florida.

What many people do not know is that Big Tobacco can afford to pay out these mutli-million dollar awards, particularly if they are spread out over time. The cigarette industry makes over $90 billion every year in revenue, and companies long ago started factoring in victims' lawsuits into their costs of doing business.

New Drug for Aggressive Cancer Patients


In related news, the FDA recently expanded the approved uses of Cyramza (ramucirumab) to now treat patients with aggressive non-small cell lung cancer, which is the most common form of lung cancer.

Cyramza works to treat lung cancer by blocking the blood supply that feeds tumors. It is intended for patients whose tumors grew during or after platinum-based chemotherapy. Cyramza should be taken alongside a type of chemotherapy that uses the drug docetaxel.

The drug was initially approved to treat stomach cancer, or GEJ (gastroesophageal junction adenocarcinoma), which affects the organs where the esophagus meets the stomach. The decision to approve Cyramza for lung cancer is the result of clinical study of more than 1,200 patients. These study participants had been diagnosed with lung cancer that was progressive despite previous treatment.

Patients were randomly assigned to receive either a placebo and a chemotherapy drug, or Cyramza and the chemo drug. Results from this study showed that half of the patients who were given Cyramza plus the chemo drug lived for an average of 10.5 months from the time they started treatment. Those who received the placebo survived about 9 months after starting treatment.

Two months may not seem like a large improvement, but for lung cancer it is considered significant. Adding drugs like Cyramza to chemotherapy regimens is gaining popularity, as it allows a more targeted approach to fighting the cancer, ultimately improving survival and outcomes. As stated, Cyramza is one such drug, working to cut off the blood supply to the tumors by blocking the messages that cancer cells send to attract new blood vessels.

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Navy Veteran Asbestos Exposure

November 11, 2014

2536571957_36ef0848ce_m.jpgVeterans who served in the Navy have the highest rates of mesothelioma and asbestos lung cancer out of all veterans of the Armed Forces. Those who served between 1930 and 1990 particularly were likely exposed at some point during their service. Mesothelioma lawyers at Pintas & Mullins explore this troubling phenomenon, and outline resources available for asbestos victims.

Asbestos was used to heavily in Navy ships and submarines because of its low cost, heat-resistance, and insulation capabilities. Nearly every vessel that was built between 1930 and 1970 (when asbestos was banned) contained several tons of asbestos in many different applications. Asbestos was used in the tiles on ship decks and in any rooms that needed heat resistance, such as boiler rooms and weapons or ammunition rooms.

One Navy veteran, Kenneth McAfee, recently filed a lawsuit against four companies that he believes contributed to his asbestos exposure while in the service. Among the defendants are General Electric and Crane Co., which manufactured asbestos-containing products that were installed on Navy ships.

It is important for veterans to know that, if they choose to file a lawsuit for the injuries suffered from exposure to asbestos in the military, the case is not against the government. Rather, the claims would be filed against the companies that manufactured and distributed the asbestos-containing products that caused exposure.

McAffee's case in Pennsylvania exemplifies this. In his lawsuit, the veteran accuses GE of selling equipment that was encased in asbestos wire wrappings, which emitted asbestos dust particles. He also accused Crane of selling gaskets, packing, compressors and insulation containing asbestos. The veteran then breathed in these dust particles, and the asbestos lodged into his lungs.

When asbestos enters the lungs, it remains there. In some victims, those asbestos pieces cause cellular changes, affecting the DNA over several decades, ultimately leading to malignant tumors. These tumors begin either in the lungs, or in the lining of the lungs, called the mesothelium. This is where the term mesothelioma gets its name, and it can affect the tissue lining the lungs, stomach, heart or other organs.

McAffee served in the Navy from 1969 to 1991, and worked for three years afterward in a Navy shipyard. Part of his duties involved repairing equipment on these ships, which is where his exposure took place.

Civilians who worked around ship, auto, train, and other friction equipment parts are at very high risk of asbestos exposure as well. A similar case in Pennsylvania recently ended in $1 million verdict against Ford Motor Co. for exposing its workers to asbestos. The victim in this case worked at a Ford dealership where he was exposed to asbestos in brake pads. He ultimately developed mesothelioma and filed suit against Ford.

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Tobacco Companies to Pay $41 Million to Lung Disease Victim

October 23, 2014

6076728842_ffce33a681_b.jpgA man diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease was recently awarded $41 million by a Florida jury. Both Philip Morris USA and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company will be liable for the damages incurred by the plaintiff in this case. Lung cancer lawyers at Pintas & Mullins explain this case and others like it around the country.

The cigarette giants were accused in this case of conspiring to conceal the dangers of smoking, along with the true addictiveness of cigarettes. The plaintiff, Kenneth Kerrivan, started smoking at age 14, eventually developing severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in 1993. He did ultimately quit smoking, and shortly thereafter filed this lawsuit.

Kerrivan alleged that tobacco companies hid information about the addictive nature of cigarettes, as he became addicted to them during an era when they were widely marketed to youths. Tobacco companies would use celebrities and even famous athletes to promote their products in attempts to appeal to and addict children so they would be lifetime smokers.

This $41 million verdict is the latest in the string of cases resulting from the 2006 Engle vs. Liggett Group class action, which was filed on behalf of smokers and their families injured by cigarette companies. Despite a $145 billion verdict, the class action was decertified in 2006 by the Florida Supreme Court, however, everyone involved is still allowed to sue Big Tobacco companies individually. There were about 700,000 class members in the Engle suit. Several of these class members have already sued successfully in Florida courts, winning more than $500 million in verdicts.

Mesothelioma Victim Receives $18 Million from Union Carbide


In a similar case in California, a man diagnosed with mesothelioma was awarded $18 million. The victim, Bobbie Izell, was exposed to asbestos while working with joint compounds made by Hamilton Materials. The asbestos was supplied by Union Carbide, which attempted to reverse the multi-million dollar award on appeal. The California appellate court denied this attempt, stating the Union Carbide's "highly reprehensible" behavior made it liable for the award.

The court continued to say that the severity of Izell's injury - his mesothelioma diagnosis - showed that Union Carbide acted with deplorable indifference to the health and safety of others. They based these opinions off the company's internal documents on asbestos, some dating back to the 1960s. In those reports, it is clear that Union knew that even low levels of asbestos exposure could cause mesothelioma, and that it was purposefully choosing not to warn consumers of these dangers.

The company admitted that, any admission of warning of the risk of cancer would have ruined its asbestos business. Evidence like this, combined with medical expert testimony, was enough to establish a reasonably probability that exposure to asbestos provided by Union Carbide contributed to Izell's mesothelioma. As stated, he worked at Hamiton Materials for several decades with joint compounds, which are known to contain asbestos.

Izell worked as a cement contractor and general contractor building homes in the Los Angeles are until his retirement in 1994. The $14 million damage award was meant to penalize Union Carbide $1 million for every year it continued to sell asbestos after the 1967 memo mentioned above.

Libby, MT W.R. Grace Employees Plan Asbestos Lawsuit


Another asbestos supplier facing liability for exposure, W.R. Grace, is facing a similar lawsuit filed by two of its former employees. The workers are planning to sue W.R. Grace and its insurance company, Maryland Casualty Company, over the illnesses they developed from asbestos exposure. That exposure occurred in now-infamous Libby, Montana, which has been particularly devastated by the long-term effects of asbestos exposure.

W.R. Grace owned and operated an asbestos mine and mill site in Libby for several decades, despite the company's knowledge that asbestos was fatally dangerous. The mine has been closed for over twenty years, however, the residents of Libby continue to be diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestosis, and other fatal illnesses.

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Cancer Drug Costs Brought to National Attention

October 10, 2014

6025359063_81a0b67b4c_b.jpgNearly everyone in the United States has been affected by a cancer diagnosis, and those who have helped a family member fight cancer know how the cost of the drugs alone can be devastating. The Pintas & Mullins Law Firm has been representing clients fighting cancer for many years, which has given us a unique look into the reality of paying for cancer treatment while battling a catastrophic illness. Here, we detail the personal effects of cancer treatment and the pharmaceutical industry's role in this issue.

We rely on lifesaving drugs particularly in cancer treatment because most funding pours into pharmaceutical developments and studies. The costs, however, are egregious: the average drug is about $100,000 per year. This is on top of other treatment types, such as radiation, surgery, and other potential drugs. This issue was recently profiled on 60 Minutes by journalist Lesley Stahl. Throughout the program Stahl interviewed doctors at world renowned cancer centers along with lobbyists for the pharmaceutical industry.

The program highlighted the significant burden these costs are for patients and their families, including the increasing rate of bankruptcy caused by cancer treatment - in fact, it is one of the leading causes of personal bankruptcy. The tern 'financial toxicity' is widely used now to refer to this bankruptcy phenomenon, which many experts consider "unreasonable, unsustainable, and immoral."

One of the doctors interviewed prominent American doctors who are actively revolting against the rising drug prices. Among them is Dr. Saltz, an oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering. Dr. Saltz went to the forefront of the fight against rising cancer drug costs in 2012, after Zaltrap was introduced to treat colon cancer. Zaltrap is remarkably similar to the drug Avastin, but it costs more than twice Avastin, at more than $11,000 per month.

Doctors at Sloan Kettering rejected Zaltrap because of its inflated price, an unprecedented move among cancer centers. Taking it one step further, they also wrote about their decision in the New York Times; after it was published, the price of Zaltrap dropped more than half. This was irrefutable proof that pricing is falsely inflated.

Drug companies state that it costs them $1 billion to develop new cancer drugs, and the high prices reflect the price of these technologies. The American drug pricing system is exclusively dictated by drug companies, who attempt to pander responsibility off to insurance companies.

Whomever is to blame, it boils down to one choice for patients: either you pay the incredibly costs, possibly putting your family into bankruptcy, or you die. In a revolt against this, nearly 120 of the world's leading leukemia doctors signed an article regarding the exorbitantly high prices of drugs that could add significant lengths of time to patients' lives, if only they could afford them.

A particularly egregious example is Gleevec, used to treat leukemia, which is considered one of the best cancer drugs ever. It allows patients to live their normal lives and extends lives for years, however, the price for Gleevec has tripled since 2001. It now costs $92,000 per year, and brings in billions of dollars in salves every year to its manufacruter, Novartis. Novartis has been raising the prices on its older drugs habitually, to cover the "investments needed to continue to innovate."

What Can Be Done


Most experts agree that the one factor that can and should be immediately changed are the laws regarding Medicare drug pricing. Currently, Medicare pays the exact same amount the drug companies charge wholesale, and no negotiations for lower pricing is permissible. This is a law unique to the United States - every other country allows for negotiations, and is why drug prices are 50 to 80% lower in every other country in the world for the same drug.

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Lung Cancer Patients Turn to E-Cigarettes

September 22, 2014

why-e-cigarettes-3.jpgA study by the American Cancer Society concluded with some interesting findings regarding patients diagnosed with lung cancer and e-cigarette usage. Researchers noted that e-cigarette usage is on the rise, and cancer patients who used e-cigarettes were more dependent on nicotine and less likely to quit smoking completely than those who smoked regular cigarettes. Lung cancer lawyers at Pintas & Mullins detail this study further and explain legal options for cancer patients.

E-cigarettes are frequently touted for curbing the adverse effects of smoking and for being less addictive. The reality behind these statements is highly debated, and studies are just starting to be conducted on these products. This most recent project analyzed more than 1,000 cancer patients who were enrolled in a tobacco treatment program.

Nearly 40% of patients in the study used primarily e-cigarettes, and researchers noted that these patients had more previous quitting attempts and were more likely to be diagnosed with lung, neck or head cancers than patients smoking regular cigarettes. Like in the general population, e-cigarette usage among cancer patients is increasing considerably.

With fruity flavors and suspicious marketing practices, e-cigarettes manufacturers are forcefully targeting minors, and it seems to be working. In 2013 the CDC stated that the number of high school students who have tried e-cigarettes more than doubled between 2011 and 2012 alone. In response to their gaining popularity, the FDA recently proposed a set of guidelines for e-cigarettes. Among its recommendations, the FDA will not allow minors to buy e-cigarettes and other new tobacco products to minors.

It's not only high school students at risk. Poison centers throughout the U.S. are noticing an uptick in nicotine poisoning emergencies in small children - there were 215 such reports in February of this year. Some of the most severe health consequences associated with e-cigarettes includes:

• Pneumonia
• Congestive heart failure
• Seizures
• High blood pressure

Legal Options


Although there have not yet been any lawsuits filed by patients injured by e-cigarettes, several states have brought action against manufacturers for selling to minors or practicing unethical advertising. For example, Oregon recently filed lawsuits against two e-cigarette manufacturers, causing the two companies to completely stop selling their products in that state.

A similar lawsuit in California accused Sottera, an e-cigarette manufacturer, of illegally marketing to minors, touting them as safer alternatives to traditional cigarettes, and advertising the products as aids to help stop smoking. In that settlement, Sottera agreed to stop these marketing practices and to discontinue sales of flavored cartridges.

That being said, the adverse health effects listed above are quite serious, and may be grounds for an injury lawsuits. If a child accidentally ingests nicotine solutions used in e-cigarettes, an injury lawsuit may be filed as well. The active ingredients in these nicotine solutions is much the same as those found in cigarettes and nicotine patches, and a teaspoon is enough to kill a small child.

Despite this and the FDA's efforts, e-cigarettes remain unregulated and are not required to have child-proof parts. Several national and international health organizations are attempting to tackle this new trend, and the FDA is expected to bring e-cigarettes under its authority soon. These products have not been fully studies, so the long-term risks and benefits are completely unknown.

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Asbestos and Its Cancers

September 17, 2014

danger-asbestos-hazard-1.jpgThe illness most commonly associated with asbestos is mesothelioma, which is cancer that develops in the thin layer of tissue that lines internal organs like the lungs, stomach or heart. Mesothelioma most commonly affects the lungs and is frequently confused with lung cancer, as the symptoms are very similar. Mesothelioma lawyers at Pintas & Mullins detail the cancers and illnesses caused by asbestos to help those suffering find legal recourse.

Head and neck cancers - such as pharyngeal, esophageal, throat, and thyroid cancers - can also be caused by exposure to asbestos. Men are about three times more likely to develop these types of cancers than women, and most cases occur in men over the age of 50. As with most cancers, survival largely depends on the stage at diagnosis.

There are many studies and articles that examine the association between asbestos and head and neck cancers. Among these studies the strongest evidence of this association comes from those who work with insulation. This is not surprising - insulation is the largest source of asbestos exposure in workers throughout the 20th century. Insulation is used in homes, ships, cars, manufacturing facilities, and buildings of all types, and asbestos was used in all types of insulation until around the 1970s; in fact, insulation workers were often referred to as asbestos workers.

Although asbestos was banned in the 1970s due to its clear and devastating health consequences, the asbestos industry lobbied heavily in Congress and the medical community to lift the ban. In 1991, the EPA agreed to lift the asbestos ban, allowing companies to use it in products as long as there was less than 1% of asbestos in the final product.

The problem with this is that there is no safe level of asbestos exposure. Mesothelioma affects victims of all types, it does not necessarily depend on how long or how much you were exposed to asbestos - anyone can develop mesothelioma, even those who were exposed briefly and minimally. It is a disease unique to each person: some people are exposed to asbestos for many years and never develop mesothelioma, while others cannot ever remember being exposed and are diagnosed decades later.

Risk Factors


Most of these studies do find a joint effect between asbestos exposure, smoking, and head and neck cancer. Regardless of exposure amount or duration, those who are exposed to asbestos and smoke are far more likely to develop the cancer than people exposed who never smoked.

Additionally, those who were previously diagnosed with any type of respiratory disease are at an increased risk of developing lung cancer. The three diseases most strongly associated with lung cancer were pneumonia, bronchitis, and emphysema. Fortunately, tuberculosis and asthma were not associated with lung cancer risk.

These diseases are medically defined under an umbrella term, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, which is the third leading cause of death in the U.S. As any other lung disease, the leading risk factor for COPD is smoking, followed by air pollution, second-hand smoke, dust, and chemical exposure. Other risk factors for COPD include obesity, high blood pressure, family history and high sodium intake.

Continue reading "Asbestos and Its Cancers" »

Asbestos and Autoimmune Disease

August 14, 2014

The grave health risks of asbestos exposure have been known and documented since the 1930s, though not publically until the mid-1970s and even later in some parts of the world. Lung cancer, asbestosis, mesothelioma and other fatal lung conditions are definitively and irrefutably linked to asbestos exposure. Now, esteemed medical researchers are linking certain kinds of autoimmune disease to asbestos. Lung cancer lawyers at Pintas & Mullins explore these new findings on how the immune system responds to asbestos.

danger-asbestos.jpg Autoimmune disorders can occur in anyone and can be caused by anything from genetics to environmental factors, though exact causes are often unknown. These disorders are characterized by the body's inability to distinguish between healthy tissues and harmful antigens, thus compromising the immune system. Our immune systems are made up primarily of white blood cells, which protect against antigens such as asbestos, bacteria, viruses, and cancer cells.

Healthy immune systems produce antibodies to destroy antigens - those with autoimmune disorders are unable to distinguish between the two, so the antigens destroy all tissue, healthy or not. An autoimmune disorder can affect any part of the body, including the brain, muscles, skin, or lungs, with an array of consequences, such as changes in organ function, abnormal growth, or slow destruction.

Autoimmunity Development Caused by Asbestos


There are about seven different types of asbestos fibers, some much more dangerous than others. One of these strains, known as amphibole asbestos, has a particularly destructive effect on the immune system; chrysotile asbestos, on the other hand, is most associated with cancer development.

Amphibole asbestos was mined heavily in the small Montana town of Libby for over half a century. As a result, residents of the town have been slowly dying of lung cancer and asbestos-related illnesses, even if they were not work in the mine. The town has come to be known for this tragic history, a sort of relic of how devastating the substance is, capable of ravaging entire communities.

Medical experts have noted that the amphibole asbestos in Libby is associated with the activation of autoantibodies in those exposed. Specifically, amphibole induces a response from the Th-17 protein, which is implicated in many other diseases like lupus, arthritis, and systemic sclerosis.

Libby, Montana has become a target for large-scale studies on asbestos exposure. In 2000, the CDC conducted a screening program in the town in an attempt to quantify the health consequences. More than 7,000 residents took part, answering questions related to their exposure. Nearly 500 residents - or about 7% of the population - reported having been diagnosed with either lupus, systemic sclerosis, or arthritis.

In the general population the likelihood that someone would be diagnosed with one of these three ailments in less than 1%. The high rates in Libby led CDC researchers to collect serum samples from residents, comparing their autoantibodies with control subjects in a different Montana town with no history of asbestos presence. In their findings, which were recently published in *Environmental Health Perspectives, the prevalence of autoantibodies was nearly 30% higher than in the control subjects, and the intensity of these antibodies were also significantly higher. Furthermore, researchers found that those who had multiple exposures to amphibole asbestos were four times more likely to be diagnosed with lupus.

Studies in Libby continue to be conducted: most recently, experts have started focusing on residents who have developed unusual and serious progressive pulmonary illnesses. Many of these patients eventually die of infections, lose lung functioning completely, and endure terrible pain. Researchers believe that the amphibole asbestos produce autoantibodies that scar the tissue surrounding the lungs, causing them to harden and rendering them unable to function. They are considering this a new type of autoimmune disease, working to officially classify it as such.

The asbestos mine in Libby was run by a company called W.R. Grace. The company's internal documents note that more than 9.7 billion pound s of asbestos-containing ore was mined from the town between 1960 and 1990, shipping all over the U.S. and Canada. Asbestos was then stripped from the ore to be used in dozens of products, such as brake pads and building insulation.

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Lung Cancer Victim Wins Million-Dollar Tobacco Lawsuit

August 6, 2014

55661780_801ee71b32_o.jpgThe widow of a long-time smoker recently won a $4 million jury verdict in California, after she sued Lorillard Tobacco Company for his death. Her husband died in 1998, from lung cancer, after smoking Newports for several decades. Lung cancer lawyers at Pintas & Mullins are happy to report on this verdict, as we help our own lung cancer clients gain justice.

The plaintiff in this California case argued that Lorillard Tobacco negligently designed Newport cigarettes, which was a key factor in her husband, William Major's, diagnosis and consequent death. She filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the company, and the jury ultimately decided that Lolliard was about 20% responsible for his death.

The jury concluded that Major himself was responsible for half of the harm done to him. The remaining 50% of blame was placed on the defending tobacco companies. Major's widow also sued two other major tobacco companies: R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris. Those companies settled out of court, however, agreeing to 33% of the responsibility for his death.

Major's widow filed the lawsuit in 1999, one year after her husband died at age 55. She claimed that Lorillard's Newport cigarettes were specifically designed to encourage addiction to nicotine, and that its additives, such as menthol, increased this addictiveness. She argued that Newport menthols were killing far more people than other types of cigarettes because Lorillard chose to include enhanced nicotine delivery instead of less-lethal designs.

The jury in her case agreed that Lorillard's design of Newports did not outweigh its benefits, and that Major's family lost more than $3 million in support and benefits from his premature death. They additionally awarded his widow $15 million for past and future non-economic damages, including suffering and loss of love.

Juries Get It Right


R.J. Reynolds was recently hit with an unprecedented $23.6 billion verdict in a similar Florida case, which concluded this July. The plaintiffs in that care are the surviving wife and son of a man, Michael Johnson, who died of lung cancer when he was just 36-years-old. His wife and son sued R.J. Reynolds, claiming that the company was negligent in failing to inform its consumers that nicotine was addictive and cancer-causing.

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Lung Cancer Victim Wins Million-Dollar Tobacco Lawsuit

August 6, 2014

55661780_801ee71b32_o.jpgThe widow of a long-time smoker recently won a $4 million jury verdict in California, after she sued Lorillard Tobacco Company for his death. Her husband died in 1998, from lung cancer, after smoking Newports for several decades. Lung cancer lawyers at Pintas & Mullins are happy to report on this verdict, as we help our own lung cancer clients gain justice.

The plaintiff in this California case argued that Lorillard Tobacco negligently designed Newport cigarettes, which was a key factor in her husband, William Major's, diagnosis and consequent death. She filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the company, and the jury ultimately decided that Lolliard was about 20% responsible for his death.

The jury concluded that Major himself was responsible for half of the harm done to him. The remaining 50% of blame was placed on the defending tobacco companies. Major's widow also sued two other major tobacco companies: R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris. Those companies settled out of court, however, agreeing to 33% of the responsibility for his death.

Major's widow filed the lawsuit in 1999, one year after her husband died at age 55. She claimed that Lorillard's Newport cigarettes were specifically designed to encourage addiction to nicotine, and that its additives, such as menthol, increased this addictiveness. She argued that Newport menthols were killing far more people than other types of cigarettes because Lorillard chose to include enhanced nicotine delivery instead of less-lethal designs.

The jury in her case agreed that Lorillard's design of Newports did not outweigh its benefits, and that Major's family lost more than $3 million in support and benefits from his premature death. They additionally awarded his widow $15 million for past and future non-economic damages, including suffering and loss of love.

Juries Get It Right


R.J. Reynolds was recently hit with an unprecedented $23.6 billion verdict in a similar Florida case, which concluded this July. The plaintiffs in that care are the surviving wife and son of a man, Michael Johnson, who died of lung cancer when he was just 36-years-old. His wife and son sued R.J. Reynolds, claiming that the company was negligent in failing to inform its consumers that nicotine was addictive and cancer-causing.

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Asbestos Exposure Lawsuit Ends in $90 Million to Plaintiffs

July 10, 2014

gavel-8.jpgMesothelioma is a rare and extremely fatal form of cancer that can only be caused by exposure to asbestos. Recently, eleven families in New Jersey banded together because of a common threat that bound them: losing a loved one to mesothelioma. These families consequently filed a lawsuit against the asbestos companies that exposed their loved ones, ultimately winning $90 million. Asbestos exposure lawyers at Pintas & Mullins are happy to summarize this case, which is a great example of justice won.

The lawsuit was filed by family members of eleven people who died from mesothelioma, either from first- or second-hand asbestos exposure. Second-hand, or take home asbestos exposure is when someone who is employed at a place that uses asbestos tracks the asbestos home with them on their work clothing. Asbestos is a white, fiber-like mineral that can easily stick to jackets, boots and other clothes. When inhaled, the asbestos fibers can cause cancer to form and grow in the lungs.

Many of the eleven victims who succumbed to mesothelioma worked at the John Manville Company, a notorious perpetrator of exposing workers to asbestos, while the others were the loved ones of these workers, who were exposed second-hand. One of the take home asbestos victims, Deborah Ann, died when she was just 49 years old.

Asbestos exposure is generally defined as at least two weeks of constant contact with asbestos. Many people, particularly in the baby boomer generation, have held jobs at asbestos plants for several decades. Statistically, about one in every 20 people who have been exposed will develop mesothelioma, however, the length of time from initial exposure to cancer diagnosis is very long.

A latency period is the amount of time between initial asbestos exposure and when a doctor definitively diagnoses the person with mesothelioma. One of the biggest reasons mesothelioma is so extraordinarily fatal is because of this latency period, which can be anywhere from 10-50 years. The beginning symptoms of mesothelioma seem harmless - coughing, wheezing, chest pain - that can be mistook for more common ailments, like the common cold or asthma.

Because of this, mesothelioma often goes undiagnosed until it's in its later stages, when treatment or cures are impossible. Unfortunately, most mesothelioma patients live for only about one year after diagnosis.

Who is Most at Risk?


The most obvious occupations most at risk of exposure and cancer development are those working directly with asbestos fibers. There are dozens of other industries and occupations, however, where asbestos exposure is common but goes undetected.

A man in California, for example, recently developed mesothelioma after working for decades as an auto mechanic and plumber. He passed away from the disease in 2013, one year after diagnosis, and his family consequently filed suit against the companies they believed exposed him to asbestos.

The case went to trial, and a jury ultimately awarded the family nearly $11 million in damages, after finding the defendants showed reckless indifference in using asbestos in their products. Another auto mechanic who developed mesothelioma from auto parts containing asbestos recently passed away just before a similar victory. The New York man in this case filed suit against Ford.

The man and his family accused Ford of causing the cancer that lead to his death, by using asbestos in their auto products despite clear, overwhelming evidence that it caused cancer. Not only did Ford know the products were harmful, but it also failed to warn those using these products of the risks, in reckless disregard for consumer safety.

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Lead Smelter Lawsuits Ends in $38 Million for Injured Plaintiffs

June 19, 2014

8572607587_fff58574bf_c.jpgA landmark lawsuit recently concluded in Missouri, focusing on an engineering and construction company, Fluor Corp., and 16 plaintiffs who were gravely injured by the company's lead smelter emissions. Originally, the verdict amounted to $358 million, however an appeals court cut the award to $38 million. Toxic exposure attorneys at Pintas & Mullins highlight this case and what it could mean for those similarly exposed to toxic emissions.

U.S. refineries like Fluor Corp. release about release about 37,895 tons of volatile compounds per year. This number is based on companies' own reports, however, and the EPA estimates that actual toxic emissions are actually 10 to 100 times higher.

Lead smelter emissions at the Missouri Fluor plant, specifically, caused immense harm in those who lived in the area. The 16 plaintiffs were all children (born between 1984 and 2000) when they were exposed, suffering permanent cognitive harm such as low IQ, ADHD, and other disorders.

In the court's opinion, the language toward Fluor was deservingly harsh, criticizing the company for failing to curb the plaint's toxic emissions and misleading local residents - and federal regulators - about its highly reprehensible behavior. The court found that the company was knowingly emitting levels of lead that violated national laws and was aware that local children were testing at extremely high blood lead levels, and did nothing about it.

Fluor even went so far as the blame the children's parents for the high levels of lead, along with two other companies - A.T. Massey Coal Co. and Doe Run Investment Holding - which co-owned the plant between 1986 and 1994. The resulting 13-week trial concluded in 2011 with irrefutable evidence that these three companies placed profits over the well-being of children.

Workplace Exposure and Its Consequences


Unfortunately, toxic exposure in the workplace has been common practice since the industrial revolution. Many toxins, including asbestos and radon, are conclusively associated with cancers and mesothelioma. Others, such as lead, are known to cause neurological or cognitive conditions, particularly in children or those exposed over long periods of time.

Community groups in Texas and Louisiana recently settled a lawsuit that will require the EPA to review outdated and inaccurate methods that chemical and refinery companies use to report toxic emission levels. Federal law requires the EPA to review and revise these emission factors and methods every three years - despite this, the agency has not reviewed many of the factors in more than two decades.

This egregious failure is resulting in not only significant underestimation of emissions, but allows hundreds of thousands of tons of pollutants to release into local communities. Per the settlement, the EPA must review emissions factors no later than August 2014, and issue final revision guidelines by no later than December 2014.

In children, the effects of lead exposure can be almost immediately evident, or take just a few years to manifest. In other cases, particularly with radon and asbestos exposure, the opposite is true.

Asbestos is a white, fiber-like mineral that was often used in insulation and friction products throughout the 20th century. Without their knowledge or consent, workers in dozens of different industries were exposed to asbestos on-the-job, breathing in these fibers and even carrying asbestos residue home with them on their clothing.

Asbestos is the only known cause of a specific, incurable form of cancer called mesothelioma. Unlike other toxic chemicals, asbestos takes decades (between 20-50 years) to develop and grow into cancer. Because of this long latency time, patients are usually unaware that cancer is forming internally and write off their symptoms (coughing, chest pain) as minor annoyances. Asbestos is also responsible for another serious illness, asbestosis, which can often lead to mesothelioma.

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