Pipefitter Mesothelioma Death Results in $1.4M Verdict in Tennessee Lawsuit

The wife of a pipefitter who died from mesothelioma cancer was awarded $1.4 million last week by a Tennessee jury, in a lawsuit that alleged North Brothers sold defective products that exposed her husband to asbestos.

The mesothelioma death lawsuit was brought by Marian Jackson, the wife of deceased pipefitter Kenneth Wayne Jackson, against North Brothers (also known as National Services Industries) and several other defendants. All of the other defendants except North Brothers either settled or were dismissed from the case before trial. The jury returned the verdict last Monday after a seven-day trial in Hamilton County Circuit Court.

Kenneth Wayne Jackson was exposed to asbestos fibers during his work as a pipefitter at Combustion Engineering in Chattanooga, Tennessee, from 1952 through 1986. The lawsuit claimed that by selling products to the facility that contained asbestos, which was known to cause health problems, North Brothers was selling defective products and partially liable for his death.

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Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that attacks the lungs and chest lining. It is caused by asbestos exposure, usually resulting from inhaling or consuming asbestos fibers used in industrial processes. As a result of a long latency period of between 20 and 40 years between exposure to asbestos and diagnosis, the cancer is often at a very advanced stage by the time it is discovered and often results in death.

Asbestos was widely used in a variety of manufacturing and construction applications throughout the last century. Use peaked in 1973, before the toxic substance was banned in 1982. Despite the ban, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the number of mesothelioma deaths continues to rise each year due to the latency period, with the number expected to peak in 2010.

Pipefitters are considered to be a high risk group for developing illnesses associated with asbestos exposure. Asbestos was used heavily in insulation of pipes between the 1940s and 1980s, and pipefitters often had to work in close, cramped quarters, breathing air heavily laden with asbestos fibers. In addition, pipefitters often had to cut or grind down asbestos products, such as asbestos paper and insulation blocks, to meet specific size requirements for projects.

Asbestos litigation is the longest running mass tort in U.S. history, with the first asbestos exposure lawsuit filed in 1929. Over 600,000 people have filed lawsuits against 6,000 defendants after being diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestosis or other asbestos-related diseases.


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