A recent ruling by a federal judge could benefit many asbestos disease victims and their families who file mesothelioma cancer lawsuits, allowing the plaintiff’s attorneys to call four expert witnesses to help prove liability. The asbestos cancer lawsuit was filed by the wife of a man who developed the rare and lethal form of asbestos inducted mesothelioma cancer.
In the lawsuit, the woman claims her husband developed the terminal cancer as a result of negligence on the part of his former employer. The victim worked in the engine room of the USS Tuscaloosa and was exposed to deadly asbestos fibers that – according to the lawsuit – caused him to develop the rare cancer, which is only known to be caused by asbestos.
Attorneys for the victim’s former employer tried to get the expert witnesses’ testimonies excluded from the case, likely because of how damaging that testimony could be to their defense. For example, one of the expert witnesses planned to testify that the employer had asbestos-containing gaskets in the engines removed and replaced as part of routine maintenance and that this regular maintenance produced airborne asbestos fibers that settled on surfaces in and around the machinery.
The company’s attorneys argued that this witness did not have any factual data about how frequently the victim was exposed, how much asbestos the victim was exposed to, and how long he was exposed. The judge disagreed and is allowing the testimony, along with three other expert witnesses.
Asbestos and Mesothelioma
Asbestos was used for decades in multiple industries, leaving many workers at risk of developing mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. Mesothelioma is a rare and always terminal form of cancer that is found in the sacs (mesothelium) that protect many of the body’s organs, including the lungs. It can take decades before victims began to develop symptoms.
Once symptoms do start to appear, it is not uncommon for the condition to go undiagnosed because the symptoms are often mistaken for other diseases. Tragically, there is no cure for mesothelioma and the diagnosis is a fatal one, with no more than 40 percent of victims surviving beyond the first year of diagnosis. Symptoms of mesothelioma include:
- Difficulty swallowing: This is one of the earliest symptoms of mesothelioma and may be accompanied by reflux, hoarseness, or something stuck in the back of the victim’s throat.
- Fatigue: This is also one of the early signs of mesothelioma.
- Fever and excessive sweating: Fevers without a cold or any other conditions indicate a possible issue, as does excessive night sweats.
- Pleural effusions: These are the buildup of extra fluid around the lungs and are found in 90 percent of victims. Pleural effusions are also present in conditions such as embolisms and heart failure, resulting in delayed diagnosis of the mesothelioma.
- Unexplained weight loss: This occurs in one-third of victims.
FELA and Mesothelioma
Thousands of Virginia railroad workers are at high risk of developing mesothelioma because of the decades they spent working around asbestos. Asbestos was extensively used in brakes, boilers, gaskets, and pipes and although the use of asbestos was stopped years ago, many of those workers are just now being diagnosed because of the long latency period for mesothelioma to develop which can take 15-60 years to develop.
Whenever a railroad employee is injured, any compensation is covered under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA). FELA was enacted in 1908 to provide railroad workers and their families federal protection and process for legal recovery in the event of injury or death. This law also covers former railroad workers who develop mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases. However, as a Virginia FELA attorney can explain, FELA is not the same as workers’ compensation benefits.
Workers’ compensation benefits do not require the injured worker to prove their employer is liable for their injury or condition. FELA is a fault-based system, which means the worker must prove the liability (negligence) of their employer. This is why it is critical to retain the help of a Virginia personal injury attorney who has extensive experience in advocating for mesothelioma victims and one who is well versed in FELA laws.
Contact a Virginia Mesothelioma Attorney Today
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma or any other asbestos-related disease, contact Shapiro, Appleton & Washburn to meet with a Virginia FELA attorney to discuss what legal options you may have. It is imperative that you do not delay because, under FELA, victims only have three years from the time they know or should have known that their disease or death was connected to their work with the railroad. Call our office today at 800-752-0042.