Recently, the Wisconsin Law Journal interviewed me for its Asked and Answered lawyer profile column. Here’s the link to a .pdf file of that article Wisconsin Law Journal Asked & Answered Lawyer Profile.
I’m honored to share this letter I received today. Very few Wisconsin personal injury lawyers are in The Best Lawyers in America, and I know of no lawyers in Wisconsin handling a significant number of asbestos victims’ asbestosis or mesothelioma cases who have been selected into this guide. In fact, as far as I know, the only mesothelioma and asbestos lawyers in Wisconsin listed in The Best Lawyers in America are attorneys who defend asbestos companies and myself.
Recently read an Illinois law firm’s article “Asbestos Liabilities of Dissolved Industrial Insulation Contractor.” The case involved asbestos and mesothelioma wrongful death cases against Sprinkmann Insulation based on its takeover of Sprinkmann Sons Corp. of Illinois. The latter was a former asbestos insulation contractor.
That asbestos lawsuit reminded me a of client I represented who was a former employee of Sprinkmann Sons in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Sadly, he died of mesothelioma related to his asbestos exposure after working decades for Sprinkmann Sons in Wisconsin. After a pleural biopsy, his oncologist diagnosed mesothelial hyperplasia showing malignant messothelial cells and epithelioid malignant mesothelioma. His mesothelioma was the result of working for many years in industrial locations around Milwaukee, such as the Pabst Brewery. The company was a contractor and distributor of insulation, cold storage facilities and interiors and worked in places like that processed cold and frozen foods, chemical plants, nuclear power plants, electric stations, and of course, breweries. He worked as an installer and contractor with all the hundreds of products that were laced with asbestos fibers, including blankets, boilers, expansion joints, HVAC systems, insulation, pipes, plumbing, tanks, turbines, valves, and industrial equipment. Though every asbestos and mesothelioma lawsuit is different, the recovery I was able to help obtain for this man’s family exceeded $1.5 million.
Here is our firm’s most recent Milwaukee Magazine Super Lawyers Profile.
In Singer v. Pneumo Abex, LLC, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals ruled that a Milwaukee court should have granted summary judgment against the estate of a man who died from malignant mesothelioma. The successful Wisconsin defense law firm in the case was the Madison office of Godfrey & Kahn. The unsuccessful plaintiff was represented by an out-of-state law firm and not a Wisconsin asbestos law firm.
The evidence in the case showed that the plaintiff’s decedent had worked at Harnishfeger, one of many Wisconsin companies facing asbestos litigation or alleged to have some link to asbestos or mesothelioma. The evidence also showed that the plaintiff’s decedent was likely exposed to asbestos while cleaning up asbestos dust caused by brake linings at Harnishfeger’s plants. However, the plaintiff failed to prove that the plaintiff’s decedent was ever likely exposed to Abex’s brake shoes with asbestos.
Unfortunately, this problem highlights one of the major difficulties in succeeding in a wrongful death case related to malignant mesothelioma caused by asbestos, which is locating credible evidence from which a reasonable person could infer that the deceased was exposed to the defendant’s asbestos product. Since malignant mesothelioma may not be diagnosed for 20 or 30 years after a person’s exposure to asbestos, there may be difficulty in proving which asbestos products the person was exposed to that caused the mesothelioma.
The problem of product identification is one of many reasons why anyone diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma should hire immediately an asbestos lawyer. Too often, families will wait to hire a lawyer until after their family member has died from mesothelioma. However, doing that prevents the asbestos lawyer from obtaining sometimes critical evidence the would allow the attorney to prove which asbestos products caused the mesothelioma.
Madison, Wisconsin epidemiologist Marty S. Kanarek that an epidemic of asbestos mesothelioma is coming from emerging marketss. Long banned in Wisconsin and the rest of the U.S., asbestos is known to be the primary cause for the cancer known as mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is typically a rare form of cancer in the lungs lining and abdomin that often arises 30-40 years after exposure to asbestos.
Asbestos was a fire-resistant mineral used in the U.S. for brake linings, insulation, and various other building materials. Many U.S. Navy veterans have contracted mesothelioma from asbestos exposure aboard ships. Asbestos exposure has killed more than 130,000 in the United States in the last 20 years or so. Asbestos is still mined in countries, like Canada, which interestingly will not allow asbestos to be used in its homeland, but is more than happy to export the hazardous product to emerging markets. Dr. Kanarek has seen dozens of studies of mesothelioma cases including those involving miners, brake workers, cement pipe factory workers and others. He concludes that throughout the world chrysotile asbestos is associated with mesothelioma.
Asbestos exposure on construction sites was commonplace in the 1940’s, 1950’s, 1960’s and 1970’s. Recently, I was able to help a man who was exposed to asbestos during that time. He worked throughout the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area and was diagnosed this year with mesothelioma. As is typical in asbestos mesothelioma cases, the diagnosis was made after a biopsy of his lung and a nodule. He is actually retired in Arizona, but since his exposure as a construction worker in the Sheet Metals Union took place here in Wisconsin, the basis for his lawsuit against manufactures and distributors of asbestos laced products is here and based on their causing his mesothelioma.
Milwaukee Magazine and Super Lawyers are out with their Top 50 Wisconsin Super Lawyers list and I am honored to be on it as discussed here. Do a quick search at the Wisconsin Super Lawyers page and you will see that no other plaintiff’s personal injury firm in the Top 50 list, or elsewhere today, has asbestos and mesothelioma cases as part of their focus. I guess that’s probably why I was interviewed twice by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel as their choice of a Wisconsin asbestos lawyer to discuss asbestos and mesothelioma lawsuits.
Crown Cork & Seal apparently has very good lobbyists or knows how to influence Wisconsin’s Joint Finance Committee, Legislature and Governor in order to basically get its own law in the recently passed budget. Sadly, those on the receiving end of this law are those victims suffocating from mesothelioma and asbestos exposure. Essentially, the law gives Crown Cork & Seal immunity in Wisconsin from asbestos related lawsuits filed by victims of asbestosis and mesothelioma.
Wisconsin’s Court of Appeals today released Tatera v. FMC Corp., 2008AP170. This asbestos lawsuit relates to the wrongful death of the plaintiff’s decedent who died of malignant mesothelioma. The widow asserted that the malignant mesothelioma was caused by exposure to asbestos that took place while the decedent worked in a machine shop. The decedent had worked with friction brake materials and his job had involved grinding brake linings made with asbestos.
FMC Corp. was a supplier of asbestos brake linings and though it did not manufacture asbestos brake linings, it was alleged to have sent over 18,000 friction lining parts to the decedent’s employer. The lawsuit asserted that FMC and asbestos brake lining manufacturers were liable for the decedent’s wrongful death from mesothelioma based on Wisconsin strict liability and negligence law. Essentially, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals held that a such supplier of asbestos products could not be held strictly liable, but could be found negligent in causing the death from mesothelioma.