5 Most Famous Asbestos Lawsuits in the USA

Asbestos is now a highly regulated mineral in the USA, but it is still not completely banned. Although the Asbestos mines have long-since been decommissioned, the USA still imports thousands of tons of Asbestos each year. 

During the late 1800s and early 1900s, Asbestos mining boomed and it was found to have some excellent properties such as fire-resistance. As a result, it was used in a myriad of construction products such as sidings, floor tiles, and adhesive.

Initially, everything was fantastic and Asbestos was seen as the wonder material – it could do anything, including being used as artificial snow! However, as the decades progressed, the negative aspect of Asbestos was uncovered. It was found that inhaling the fibres could lead to sever and irreparable lung damage including lung cancer.

Therefore, regulations and laws were introduced and in the USA it has been phased out of construction use for many years. Regardless, people are still getting ill from Asbestos exposure due to its slow-working mechanism. As a result, since the 1970s, there has been thousands of Asbestos lawsuits ranging from individual employees and people to entire workforces. In the below article, we take a look at 5 notable Asbestos lawsuits in the USA.

1. Georgine v. Amchem – 1994 – Ruling Against Asbestos Exposure Claims 

Amchem Products was an American company that created a wide range of asbestos-based products for construction use. It was believed that potentially millions of US Citizens were exposed to Asbestos as a result of this.

In 1994, a lawsuit was filed that aimed to make Amchem settle with up to two million people who had been exposed to Asbestos. This lawsuit was ruled against by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals unfortunately.

The plaintiffs wanted to developed a system that would allow people to easily calculate how much compensation they should be owed from Amchem – this was for both present and future Asbestos claims. However, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals did not agree with the fact that many people would be making claims without even knowing the level and severity of their exposure.

2. Otiz v. Fibreboard – 1999 – Upholding the Precedent From Previous Lawsuits 

Similarly to the Georgine v. Amchem case, Otiz v. Fibreboard was another legal attempt to hold companies accountable and ensure a smooth claim process where those exposed could find out exactly how much they were owed.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against this lawsuit and upheld the previous precedent that was set in the Georgine v. Amchem case. Their view was that it was unfair for claims to be made for people who hadn’t developed any signs of Asbestosis or conditions related to Asbestos exposure.

They essentially ruled that “It was inappropriate for a defendant company to be able to settle claims before the onset of illness”. As a result, it prevent many people who had been exposed to Asbestos from getting immediate compensation.

3. MDL 875 – 1991 – A Consolidation of Federal Asbestos Cases

During the 1980s there was a seemingly huge surge in the USA of cancer patients who had lung cancer as a result o Asbestos exposure.

This was mainly from WW2 where workers were exposed to the mineral during the production of weapons, tanks, and other essential equipment. As stated above, Asbestosis and the deterioration of the lungs is a slow-working process. Therefore, people who were exposed during WW2 were only just showing serious signs decades later. 

This resulted in local courts being overwhelmed by the sheer number of asbestos lawsuits and cases in the 1980s. As a result, the Federal Courts consolidated all asbestos cases into MLD No. 875 in front of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

4. Borel v. Fibreboard Paper Products Corporation – 1973 - The First Successful Asbestos Lawsuit 

Levy Konigsberg LLP is a well-known law firm on the East Coast of the USA and the original founding partner actually fought the first ever Asbestos lawsuit in 1973. This was the Borel v. Fibreboard Paper Products Coporation case.

Clarence Borel was a worker who dealt primarily with Asbestos insulation. He eventually developed mesothelioma over a course of 33 years which led to sever health issues. The case was won and upheld by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. After this success, many more Asbestos lawsuits were filed throughout the USA.

Until that point, it wasn’t really common for people to try to get compensation for Asbestos-related illnesses – even when they had a right to do so. Furthermore, during the 1970s, the dangers and health complications from Asbestos were still being uncovered and researched.

5. June Hancock – 1995 – First Environmental Asbestos Case

Irwin Mitchell is a long standing law firm in the USA and actually settled the first ever environmental Asbestos case. The plaintiff was June Hancock and the lawsuit was filed in 1995.

The lady had never actually worked in close proximity to Asbestos. However, she lived next to the JW Roberts factor – this was a factor that emitted huge amounts of Asbestos dust in Armley and surrounding areas.

In 1982, Hancock’s mother unfortunately died from mesothelioma, she would then be diagnosed with it herself in 1993. The lawsuit was fought in the courts and she won a staggering $4.3m compensation – this was the largest some for an industrial disease case ever at that time. 

Irwin Mitchell also successful represented a widow in 2014 too. Her husband had died from mesothelioma due to exposure as a delivery driver. This successful case helped raise concerns about the safety of non-employees entering factories and sites that worked with Asbestos.

The Legal History of Asbestos in the USA is Continually Changing 

These are just a few of the more notable examples from respected law firms or Federal cases. There have been thousands more and there are probably thousands of people who are suffering from asbestosis. While this dangerous mineral continues to be imported and used in the USA, there is unfortunately the chance for people to inhale the fibres and damage their lungs.

If you feel that your property could contain Asbestos, it is important to make sure and check. You could consider ordering one of our Asbestos Testing kits to sample your home at your convenience. Our kits are incredibly easy to use and provide all the safety equipment required to get samples without any risk. You will also get your test results back quickly from our certified labs.