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.
Corporate America’s beloved Forbes loves to try to hammer trial lawyers, and when it comes to asbestos lawyers that’s probably even more true. So it publishes this story, which appears to be a Mississippi lawsuit against Mississippi doctors who may have been working the system improperly. But the Forbes spin seems to be that these poor asbestos companies – who’ve killed literally thousands of people with their mesothelioma causing toxin – are the victims. Seriously, though I won’t dispute that it’s possible the company here might have been wronged, asbestos victims and lawyers who help them are hardly the bad guys in the world of asbestosis, asbestos and mesothelioma.
Symptoms of mesothelioma are not easily diagnosed especially in the early stage. In fact, typically after mesothelioma is diagnosed, patients often relate symptoms to their doctor that have been present for many months. Symptoms of pleural mesothelioma (mesothelioma of chest) include low back pain, chest pain beneath arms, shortness of breath, trouble swallowing, cough, fever, fatigue, weight loss, hoarseness, facial swelling or swelling in the arms, and muscle weakness. Symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma include abdominal pain, weight loss, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal fluid or mass. Certainly, if you have such symptoms visit a physician immediately, especially if you know you were exposed to asbestos.
Those having symptoms will undergo a physical to determine whether there are additional signs of mesothelioma or asbestos lung cancer. Patients with pleural mesothelioma will often have pleural effusion (fluid in lungs). Some may have ascites (fluid in abdomine) in cases of peritoneal mesothelioma, or pericardial effusion (fluid in pericardium) in cases of pericardial mesothelioma. If the foregoing shows the potential for a diagnosis of mesothelioma, then other tests will be done, including imaging tests like x-rays, CT scans, MRI scans, and PET scans. Tests may reveal irregular thickening of pleura, calcium deposits or fluid in pleural space. Tests may also allow the doctor to begin determining the extent of cancer (staging). If a pleural effusion, ascites or pericardial effusion is found, the doctor may sample fluid for diagnosing cancer by a pathologist. Also, tissue samples may be taken via thoracoscopy, laparoscopy, mediastinoscopy or bronchoscopy, or sometimes surgery, thoracotomy or laparotomy, may be done by a surgeon.
Mesothelioma is generally very difficult to diagnose and in all cases, I always recommend a biopsy. In case of death, I also recommend an autopsy. A great place for information on the symptoms and diagnosis of mesothelioma is the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes for Health MedlinePlus: Mesothelioma page, which I used along with the American Cancer Society website in writing this.
Mesothelioma caused by asbestos is a typical case handled by my Wisconsin personal injury law firm. So for my first post, I thought I’d describe one to give readers a general idea of what type of case I handle involving asbestos.
We will call the client Mr. Smith. Mr. Smith lived in Wisconsin and was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma. It was discovered via biopsy and he had other medical tests including a PET Scan and lung tap. Mr. Smith was 65 years old. Out of high school, he joined the U.S. Navy where he served as an auxiliaryman working with asbestos in HVAC and mechanical systems. While in the Navy Reserves, he also worked with asbestos in various shipyards. Ships he remembers serving on included submarines and a destroyer and the shipyards he worked in included Baimbridge, Charleston, Portsmith, Norfolk, Philadelphia, and Groton. After serving in the Navy, Mr. Smith worked at a Wisconsin Electric Power Plant in a boiler room, another area replete with asbestos. He then worked at a large medical center in Wisconsin doing mechanical work. He was frequently in areas with pipes, boilers, and insulation all replete with asbestos.
When I met him, Mr. Smith was suffering with breathing difficulties caused by his mesothelioma. He was somewhat angry with asbestos companies, but was more scared and worried about his family. Mr. Smith died within nine months of hiring me to help and though it’s of little consolation to his family, we worked to obtain more than $1,500,000.00 for them. Every case is handled based on the facts, and the facts in his tragic case warranted this. Though I could not do anything for Mr. Smith’s fear and anger, I take comfort in knowing that his family is being helped by my efforts.