A Midwestern engineering company settled a multimillion class action lawsuit, just days before the trial was expected to begin. The case, which involved the removal of asbestos during a renovation project from 1983-1985, was settled out of court for $80 million, making it one of the largest asbestos payouts ever in state history.
Witnesses in the case testified during a hearing that during the renovation project for a downtown county courthouse, grit and dust from asbestos covered nearly everything in a fifth floor office, and workers at the engineering firm routinely tracked dust through the building and “took no precautions such as masks, gloves or warning signs.” Asbestos dust and particles would be “all over the papers,” and the dust from workers boots and shoes was “on the stairway and in the hallways.” A former top executive of the engineering firm testified that the company “did nothing to keep asbestos fibers from entering the airstream as workers wrenched or cut sections of asbestos-covered pipe.”
The settlement “will be divided, with $25 million for attorney’s fees and the cost of the litigation and the rest for a medical monitoring fund to pay for diagnostic tests for people exposed to the asbestos,” according to a report by the Washington Times. Around “7,500 people could be eligible for the testing, including county employees, jurors, jail inmates and attorneys.” If a person can prove that he was in the courthouse for at least 80 hours when the asbestos was being removed, they will be eligible for annual medical exams. People who were in the courthouse for 80 hours in any one year after the work was performed, from 1986 to 2007, will receive free screenings every five years.
Though the engineering company settled the class-action claim, the chief executive officer said the company “complied with relevant industry and regulatory safety standards in effect at the time of the courthouse project.” In addition to the $80 million settlement, the engineering firm lost a case against the heirs of a victim (a courthouse worker) who died from complications from inhaling asbestos fibers during the renovation project. She was diagnosed at age 56, some 24 to 26 years after exposure, and died within a year of that diagnosis. The company was ordered to pay $10.4 million to the victim’s family.
Testing since 2010 “confirms that the air quality in the courthouse is safe and meets regulatory guidelines,” so asbestos is no longer a threat in the building. However, because of the long latency period for mesothelioma, those who were exposed to asbestos during the renovation period, and years after, may not show symptoms for decades.
If you have been exposed to asbestos, we strongly recommend that you see your doctor immediately. Your doctor can refer you to a specialist who can develop a monitoring plan that could help diagnose mesothelioma in its early stages. Early diagnosis greatly improves the chances of survival.
"$80 Million Settlement Reached in Missouri Asbestos Case." The Washington Times. The Washington Times LLC, 26 Oct. 2016. Web. 28 Aug. 2017.
Hendricks, Mike. "$80 Million Settlement Reached in Jackson County Courthouse Asbestos Case." The Kansas City Star. The McClatchy Co., 26 Oct. 2016. Web. 28 Aug. 2017.
"Jackson County Issues Statement on Settlement in Courthouse Asbestos Case." Fox4kc.com. Tribune Broadcasting, 26 Oct. 2016. Web. 28 Aug. 2017.