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$80 Million Asbestos Settlement Reached in Class Action Lawsuit

When a downtown county courthouse in a Midwestern city was renovated more than 30 years ago, no one would have imagined that decades later a class action lawsuit would be filed. The lawsuit, which involved the removal of asbestos during the renovation by a local engineering company from 1983-1985, was settled out of court for $80 million a week before it was scheduled to go to trial. The settlement was one of the largest asbestos payouts ever in state history.

According to a report by the Washington Times, “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.” Around “7,500 people could be eligible for the testing, including county employees, jurors, jail inmates and attorneys.” If an individual was in the courthouse for at least 80 hours when the asbestos was being removed (and they can prove it), 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.

Witnesses testified during a hearing that grit and dust from the asbestos covered nearly everything in a fifth floor office, and that workers at the engineering company 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.” Even 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.”

Sadly, years before the $80 million settlement was reached, a courthouse worker died from complications from inhaling asbestos fibers during the renovation project. She was diagnosed some 24 to 26 years later (at age 56), and died within a year of that diagnosis. The victim’s heirs won a $10.4 million settlement just a year later from the county and the engineering company.

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.”

Asbestos is no longer a threat in the building (testing since 2010 “confirms that the air quality in the courthouse is safe and meets regulatory guidelines”), but because of the decades-long latency period for malignant mesothelioma, those who have been exposed to the deadly mineral may not show symptoms for years.

If you have been exposed to asbestos, see your doctor immediately. A specialist can develop a monitoring plan that could help diagnose mesothelioma in its early stages. Early diagnosis could greatly improve the chances of long-term survival.

  

Sources

"$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.