Waves of Asbestos Lawsuits

April 15, 2011 - 3 minutes read

Few would believe the effects of asbestos would span decades, affecting thousands and creating million dollar lawsuits.  Litigators have documented asbestos lawsuits into waves.  Each wave is unique in the type of exposure, but unfortunately the results remain fatal.

The first wave of asbestos exposure began in the early 1900’s as manufacturing employees worked with heavy volumes of asbestos.  They worked directly with raw asbestos to create asbestos products for other industries.  In 1927, the first case of an asbestos-related disease was identified and reported.  Despite this and other mounting evidence, manufacturers recklessly ignored these findings and heavy asbestos exposure continued.  Even after 11 employees with asbestosis sued Johns-Manville, a major asbestos company, they pushed harder to hide the deadly effects.

It wasn’t until the second wave beginning in 1960, that manufacturers were forced to acknowledge the harmful substance.  Plaintiffs were primarily asbestos insulators for the construction and repair of military ships used in World War II.  They filed asbestos lawsuits on the grounds that companies, like Johns-Manville, had the liability to inform companies buying their products of asbestos-causing diseases.

Workers with direct contact suffered almost immediate health issues.  However, not only did they suffer but they passed the threat to family members.  Workers who came home wearing asbestos-tainted clothing would innocently hug or touch their family members, including their children.  In Julie Gundlac’s case, she believes her mesothelioma came from this type of exposure.  Her father worked as an electrician and as she played in her homes laundry room, she inhaled small amounts of asbestos.  This phenomenon is called take-home secondhand exposure.  The low exposure in these situations continues to increase the number of the third wave asbestos cases.  In Gundlac’s case, it took between 20-50 years before she was diagnosed with mesothelioma.

In the fourth wave of asbestos lawsuits, plaintiffs include construction and maintenance employees who worked with asbestos products.  Much of their exposure came from different jobsites or in buildings where asbestos materials were used.  This wave also includes those living or working in areas where asbestos products were installed.

These waves tell us that asbestos is not a relic from the past; it still afflicts many people, young and old, and with deadly consequences.  Attitudes towards asbestos related diseases must change if we are to ever see an end to it.  Fortunately passionate nonprofit foundations, such as the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation and the Center for Asbestos Related Diseases, are dedicated to funding research to cure those suffering from asbestosis and mesothelioma.

If you or a loved one suspects serious contact with asbestos, it is critical that you consult an expert asbestos lawyer.  They will assist you in determining whether legal action is warranted and whether you may be entitled to financial compensation.