First Asbestos Lawsuits

First Asbestos Lawsuits

First Asbestos Lawsuits

The Industrial Revolution during the 1920s brought innovations in industry and building construction, which contributed significantly to economic growth of the United States. Powered machines gave rise to the need for a material that could insulate and protect devices from heat degradation and combustion. Asbestos was discovered to have those qualities. Asbestos performed so well that many other industries adopted its use, and “the miracle material” became widespread throughout the U.S. Unfortunately, asbestos has a deadly side effect of which there is no known cure.

Facts about the health effects from asbestos exposure

Mesothelioma is a lethal cancer arising in the delicate tissue that lines body cavities, most often around the lungs, the abdomen, and elsewhere.

Three significant health effects associated with asbestos exposure are:

  1. Lung cancer, which can be caused by inhalation of asbestos fibers.
  2. Mesothelioma, a rare cancer, originates in the thin lining of the lung, chest, abdomen, and heart. The inhalation of asbestos fibers causes mesothelioma.
  3. Asbestosis is a severe progressive, long-term, non-cancer disease of the lungs. Asbestosis is caused by inhaling asbestos fibers that lodge deep in the lungs, scarring the organs or triggering excess tissue growth. Asbestosis makes breathing painful and often leads to death from lung or heart failure as the victim essentially suffocates.

Once exposed to asbestos, a person has a 40 percent chance of developing mesothelioma. According to the National Cancer Institute, more than 90 percent of mesothelioma patients succumb to the disease within five years.

When were the health effects of asbestos exposure known by companies using asbestos?

The hazards of occupational exposure began to be recognized and were made clear in a landmark 1917 report by Anthony Joseph Lanka, a public health physician. In 1934, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics published a report citing “unusual early deaths of asbestos workers. Aetna Insurance’s 1948 Attorney’s Textbook of Medicine devoted a chapter to asbestos exposure, saying that asbestosis was “incurable” and usually resulted in disability followed by death. A 1958 inter-office memo written by a National Gypsum Company executive stated, “Perhaps the greatest hazard is with men handling asbestos. …. as certain as death and taxes …. if you inhale asbestos…, you’ll get asbestosis.”

When were the first asbestos lawsuits filed?

The first record of an asbestos-related case against a company started when 11 employees filed a negligence lawsuit against Johns Manville in 1929. Unfortunately, the employees never received compensation for their illnesses. People had few legal rights when it came to asbestos until decades later.

In 1964, Dr. Irving Selikoff published a study which established a definitive link between asbestos exposure and lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis in insulation workers.

In 1966, Claude Tomplait filed the first asbestos lawsuit against product manufacturer Fibreboard Paper Products Corporation and ten other manufacturers of asbestos-containing insulation products. The Johns-Manville Corporation and Owens-Corning Fiberglas were among the manufacturers. Tomplait, an insulation worker,  claimed damages due to his diagnosis of asbestosis. The jury voted in favor of Mr. Tomplait.

Three years later,  Clarence Borel. Also, an insulation worker, filed a claim against the same manufacturers for injury and damages for his mesothelioma diagnosis. The jury returned a verdict for Mr. Borel and awarded $70,436 in damages. The manufacturers appealed the verdict until 1973, when the 5th Circuit Court upheld the award.

In the ensuing decades, asbestos litigation overwhelmed companies that mined, manufactured, or used asbestos.

When will asbestos litigation end?

Johns-Manville was forced to settle so many asbestos litigation claims that they filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1982. It was the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history. As part of its bankruptcy proceedings, Johns-Manville was forced by the courts to create a trust to t set aside money to pay for future injury and damage claims from exposure to asbestos. The Manville Trust  has paid out hundreds of millions of dollars and is still actively paying settlement claims today.

Approximately 100 companies have been forced to declare bankruptcy because of asbestos liabilities.

Since litigation started, the Manville Personal Injury Settlement Trust has received more than 878,000 claims, almost ten times the number initially predicted.  The Trust has made payments nearing $4.23 billion. More claims continue to be filed to date.

Many companies knew for decades that their products could cause disease. They concealed the dangers, putting millions at risk for developing mesothelioma and other diseases. People exposed to asbestos decades ago are still diagnosed with mesothelioma and wondering where to turn for help.

A mesothelioma lawsuit can help a victim of asbestos exposure and their family afford medical care by securing financial compensation. Looking for a mesothelioma lawyer with significant experience? Contact Goldberg Persky and White P.C. right now to discuss your mesothelioma or asbestos-related legal claim.


“Learn About Asbestos” [link]
Lilienfeld, David E. “The Silence: The Asbestos Industry and Early Occupational Cancer Research” American Journal of Public Health (June 1991) [link]
“Asbestos Companies hid the danger for decades” EWG Action Fund [link]

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