How Companies Tried to Avoid Compensating Asbestos Victims
According to the CDC, asbestos exposure kills 12,000 to 15,000 people annually in the U.S. As early as the 1920s, companies suspected that asbestos exposure could cause harm to people. By the 1950s, companies knew that asbestos exposure led to deadly diseases. Due to the latency period of 20 years or more between the time of asbestos exposure and disease development many exposed to asbestos did not show immediate signs or symptoms of asbestos-caused diseases such as lung cancer and mesothelioma. It was not until the1970s that medical research confirmed asbestos exposure caused deadly medical disease in people. Fearing costly lawsuits, many companies tried to avoid compensating asbestos victims by engaging in various acts to cover up their knowledge about the dangers of asbestos exposure.
Companies Hid the Dangers of Asbestos for Years
A 1958 internal company confidential memo at a well-known oil and gas company documented an apparent connection between lung cancer and asbestos.
In 1976, an asbestos industry expert predicted that more than “25,000 past and present employees would die of asbestos-related diseases,”.” He then went on to point out that even though it was becoming public knowledge that there are certain health issues associated with asbestos exposure, the general population did not seem to be giving it much thought.
Efforts Made by Companies to Avoid Compensating Victims
As reports of the health risks grew and victims began filing lawsuits against companies, some companies denied their knowledge and involvement, destroyed evidence, or fabricated expert testimonies that no asbestos contaminated their products.
Other companies acknowledged that workers were exposed to asbestos and died because of it. Their internal legal counsel advised management to “cover it up.”
A court concluded that a manufacturer of gaskets, mechanical seals, couplings, hydro-dynamic bearings, and seal support systems, destroyed necessary evidence in a wrongful death civil suit by the family of a deceased worker exposed to asbestos a paper mill in Alabama. The court found that the company destroyed all records showing it had sold products containing asbestos from 1977 to 1985.
Companies Forced Into Bankruptcy
Over 100,000 asbestos injury claims have been filed, helping to push more than 70 U.S. companies into bankruptcy. The government’s response was to order the courts to create a $140 billion trust fund to compensate asbestos victims. The fund would consist of contributions by insurance companies and companies facing asbestos lawsuits — and would halt those lawsuits in return.
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