New York Mesothelioma Lawyers
Until the 1970s, asbestos was used throughout the state of New York in job sites, homes and scores of everyday household and industrial products from ironing boards to attic insulation. In fact, the state’s largest city, New York City, has long been considered the birthplace of the modern asbestos industry thanks to its history of shipbuilding, factories, power plants and construction.
Because of its fireproof, heat-resistant and insulating properties, this fibrous mineral was thought to be a near perfect material. That is, until an overwhelming amount of evidence proved otherwise. But even with that, New York State residents are at risk. With homes and historic landmarks dating back to 1600s, residents should be cautious about their surroundings and asbestos exposure.
Given the state’s history and population, lawmakers have taken significant measures to protect the residents and commuters from asbestos. These measures were bolstered following the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, when thousands of tons of asbestos were released into the air when the building collapsed.
Asbestos is known to cause a deadly cancer called mesothelioma. It develops in its unsuspecting victims decades after inhaling or ingesting broken asbestos fibers. These fibers build up, cause scarring and form abnormal and rampant cell growth. Because mesothelioma can take 50 years to develop, and its symptoms are similar to common respiratory diseases, many victims don’t realize they have the disease until it can no longer be treated effectively.
This is particularly the case for New York residents. Between 1979 and 2001, up to 4,088 people died statewide from prolonged asbestos exposure because of the state’s extensive industrial use of asbestos. However, decaying buildings are also a major cause of these deaths, particularly in the borough of Queens, which has a high concentration of older, asbestos-laden buildings. Consequently, the state has the nation’s 5th highest rate of asbestos-related deaths.
The Birthplace of the Modern Asbestos Industry
New York City is considered the source of the American asbestos industry. In 1858, Henry Ward Johns, who would found the company that became Johns-Manville, began mining and manufacturing asbestos in the borough of Staten Island. He and his company marketed the product as a safety measure for industries, particularly to insulate pipes inside homes and other buildings. As a result, it was trucked to the city and throughout the state— including Buffalo, Rochester and Watertown—to oil refineries, power plants and shipyards. Thousands of workers were exposed.
Shipbuilding was a major industry at the time, particularly in Manhattan. In fact, the city was once the busiest shipping hub in the country. Given this boon, shipyards used asbestos to protect boilers, generators, pipes and turbines against heat.
The Brooklyn Navy Yard used it even more, especially as workers there built steam engines, boats and battleships beginning in the early 1800s through World War II. During the Second World War alone, about 70,000 mechanics, technicians and other workers were exposed.
Power plants were another major source of asbestos exposure. Given the state’s population, New York has a great deal of plants, many of which contain asbestos. Some of it still exists within the buildings and can be dangerous. It still existed in the Twin Towers, and nearly half a million people may have been exposed to it during and following the September 11 terrorist attacks. Shortly after the attacks, survivors, police officers, firefighters and volunteers reported symptoms of mesothelioma. One first responder, Deborah Reeve, was diagnosed three years after the attacks and died as a result in 2006. Many experts suspect that the concentration of asbestos in the air was so high that it triggered the disease immediately.
Top Cities at Risk
New York’s issues with asbestos remain today, with about 400 jobsites, buildings and homes still containing asbestos. However, some areas are more at risk than others.
New York City presents one of the biggest risks because of its abundant shipyards, plants, factories and dilapidated buildings. The areas of Harlem, Brooklyn and Staten Island in particular have seen a number of concerns for these reasons. In addition, Jefferson County, located upstate near Lake Ontario, contains significant amounts of naturally occurring asbestos. As a result, it once had the one of the highest number of mesothelioma cases in the nation.
New York Asbestos Regulations
Considering how dangerous asbestos is, the state government has taken action to control its use and safely get rid of it. Today, the state’s Asbestos Control Bureau handles this according to New York State Labor Law and Industrial Code, which requires contractors to be appropriately licensed or certified. It also requires construction workers to file notification of large projects and to survey asbestos-containing buildings prior to their demolition.
In addition, the state Department of Health requires that people working with asbestos be trained and certified, and the state Department of Environmental Conservation dictates that asbestos must be disposed in solid-waste landfills.
Laws have also been enacted that provide health care for the medical problems that first responders developed following the September 11 attacks. In 2011, mesothelioma became one of these conditions.
Medical Criteria for Mesothelioma Lawsuits
People who have been exposed to asbestos while working in New York and have developed mesothelioma as a result can file a lawsuit against the company. Doing so will help patients recover damages, which can help pay for costly mesothelioma treatment. To file a lawsuit, a patient or loved one must prove the diagnosis through medical records and identify that it was a direct result of working for the company being sued. This involves not only proving one’s employment history but also that the company used asbestos and didn’t appropriately safeguard employees.
Filing Mesothelioma Lawsuits in New York
The amount recovered from a lawsuit can vary, but many New York residents have recovered substantial sums. For example, a boilermaker working for Consolidated Edison recovered $47 million for his injuries. However, patients must act quickly, as New York has a statue of limitations of up to three years with a one-year grace period.
Lawsuits are handled in throughout New York State in different ways, and many victims wait for years for their time in court. In Manhattan and Syracuse, for example, claimants who are not currently impaired may be placed in “inactive dockets,” but terminal patients may appear in court several times per year or in a large group.
If you have mesothelioma and are considering filing a lawsuit, speak with our attorneys today.