An Illinois jury awarded $2 million to a man and his wife, after finding that the husband developed pleural mesothelioma as a result of asbestos exposure while working various odd jobs over three decades.
The plaintiff, William Willis, 69, alleged that he worked a number of part-time jobs as a handyman while working the nightshift as a Postal Service employee from 1966 to 1992. His pleural mesothelioma lawsuit named several companies as defendants, claiming that he developed the incurable form of cancer while working with different asbestos products, including pipes and joint compounds, that either contained inadequate safety warnings or no warnings at all.
Following a three and a half week trial in Sangamon County, Ill., the jury found that Bondex International, Inc., the maker of a joint compound containing asbestos, was solely responsible for his illness and awarded $1.5 million in damages to Willis and another $500,000 to his wife, Sharon, for loss of consortium. According to a report in the Illinois State Journal-Register, prior settlements with other companies are likely to reduce the award.
Pleural mesothelioma is a form of mesothelioma that is concentrated in the chest lining, known as the pleural cavity. The cancer is caused by asbestos exposure, usually resulting from inhaling or consuming asbestos fibers, and there is no known or effective cure. As a result of a long latency period of between 20 and 40 years between exposure to asbestos and diagnosis, mesothelioma is often at a very advanced stage by the time it is discovered and it usually results in death.
Asbestos was widely used in a variety of manufacturing and construction applications throughout the last century. The substance was banned from most uses in the late 1970s, but 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.
Asbestos litigation is the longest running mass tort in U.S. history, with the first asbestos 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.