Although the federal government has regulated the use and disposal of asbestos since the 1970s, many patients are diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases every year due to past exposure. Workers who are exposed to asbestos in their teens or twenties may not show signs of malignant mesothelioma until after retirement, leaving them unsure when or where they the disease began.
In Massachusetts, over 15 people per million died as a result of malignant mesothelioma between 1999 and 2015, placing the state in the top-third of mesothelioma deaths in the country. Mesothelioma is common in workers across many occupations, but there is only one cause: asbestos. If you have been diagnosed with this condition, you should speak to an attorney with experience in the disease and the handling of asbestos lawsuits. Contact the mesothelioma attorneys at Neblett, Beard & Arsenault today or learn more about options in our free eBook, Mesothelioma and Your Legal Rights.
How Workers and Families Are Exposed to Asbestos in Massachusetts
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1,338 people died from mesothelioma and asbestosis between 1999 and 2013, making Massachusetts 13th in the United States for asbestos-related deaths during the period. While any person who has lived or worked in Massachusetts for over forty years could have been exposed to asbestos at work, employees in the following industries are especially at risk:
- Ship and boat building. The Boston Naval Shipyard, also commonly called the Boston Navy Yard and originally called the Charlestown Navy Yard, was once one of the most productive shipbuilding facilities in the nation. As many as 50,000 workers built U.S. Navy ships during World War II, and hundreds of components in these ships contained asbestos. Retired sailors, steamfitters, sheet metal workers, and other shipyard workers may have inhaled asbestos in adhesives, chemical solvents, or pipe and boiler insulation.
- Power plants. Massachusetts residents rely on fuel oil, natural gas, and nuclear power from the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station on Cape Cod Bay to heat and power their homes. Engineers and machinists at may be exposed to asbestos while working near a boiling water reactor, installing and removing asbestos-lined pipes, and other activities in the generation, transmission, and distribution of power.
- Manufacturing. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently agreed to over $13 million for asbestos cleanup in Walpole, Massachusetts. The site was identified as polluted as a result of the asbestos and chemical manufacturing by W.R. Grace, a key maker of auto parts including clutch linings and brake linings. The settlement also included Tyco Healthcare Group, a textile factory that used caustic solutions on the site until its closure in the 1980s.
- Construction and plumbing. Blue collar industries, such as plumbers, carpenters, mechanics, electricians, welders, and their immediate supervisors, have much higher rates of mesothelioma than other occupations. Construction workers are at particular risk, since many Massachusetts homes and commercial buildings were built before asbestos regulations were passed, making demolition and renovation hazardous.
- Family contact. Workers in asbestos-using industries often carried tiny fibers of the mineral home in their clothes at the end of the workday, placing their spouses and families at risk of exposure. This form of contamination, called secondary exposure, allowed the fibers to fall from the employee into the carpets, drapes, and furniture, placing while families at risk of developing mesothelioma decades later.
Historical and Future Cases of Mesothelioma in Massachusetts
The good news for mesothelioma patients in Massachusetts is that the state allows for a relatively long timeframe to bring a case against a former employer. The statute of limitations allows a person to file a claim up to three years from the date of diagnosis, while families have three years from the date of a family member’s death to file suit.
While Massachusetts does have a state law capping the amount of non-economic damages at $500,000 in injury cases, exceptions may be made for mesothelioma cases, given that the disease often results in a significantly shortened lifespan.
Although it can take a year or more for a case to go to trial, the majority of asbestos lawsuits filed in Massachusetts are settled out of court. In a 2012 case, the family of a Massachusetts man who died at the age of 52 from asbestos-related cancer was settled for $5.6 million. However, a case that goes to trial may carry a higher settlement, as in the case of a former construction supervisor who developed mesothelioma while working at Turner & Newell. In 2014, a Boston jury agreed that the cancer was likely caused by an asbestos-containing spray insulation used at T&N, and awarded $9.3 million in compensatory and punitive damages to the man’s family.
Not only can companies be ordered to pay for the injuries they cause through asbestos use, they can also face heavy fines and penalties for failing to follow public health laws. When Patriot Environmental Corporation failed to pay permit fees on 24 projects involving asbestos in 2014, the Massachusetts Attorney General filed suit against the environmental contractors and issued a penalty of $50,000 for asbestos violations. The suit has also alleged that Patriot Environmental did not take adequate safety precautions when removing asbestos shingles from a Sturbridge residence.
Care and Treatment Options for Massachusetts Mesothelioma Patients
Massachusetts patients enjoy access to some of the best mesothelioma treatment options in the country. While most of these specialized cancer centers are located in or near Boston, your former employer may be ordered to pay for the costs of your travel to a specialist as well as the costs of any medical treatment you may require. As mesothelioma may require surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, nursing care, or alternative medicine, it is worth speaking with an attorney to see how much compensation you may be owed.
The most highly-rated Massachusetts mesothelioma treatment centers include:
- Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. The Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s (BWH) International Mesothelioma Program (IMP) is focused on improving prognoses for patients with mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other asbestos-related conditions. In addition to offering many clinical trials, the facility’s Mesothelioma Orientation Group offers education and support for patients and their families, complete with information from cancer doctors, researchers, social workers, and chaplains.
- Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. The Dana Farber Institute is partnered with the BWH and Harvard Medical School, and is a participant in the International Mesothelioma Program and the Adult Survivorship Program. The facility is dedicated to providing patients with outpatient care, developing better and more effective cancer treatments, and studying how to administer treatments that will improve quality of life.
- The VA Boston Healthcare System in Jamaica Plain. Navy veterans and other retired United States service members in the Boston area can benefit from the care of this nationally-ranked Veteran Affairs medical program. Veterans with mesothelioma can undergo radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and other oncology treatments, as well as benefit from social services and counseling sessions specifically tailored to veterans’ needs.
Contact Our Massachusetts Mesothelioma Attorneys
If you are struggling with a mesothelioma diagnosis, there is a way for you to get the legal help you need without taking on an additional financial burden. The asbestos attorneys at Neblett, Beard & Arsenault work on a contingency fee basis, which means you do not pay us anything unless we win you compensation for your illness. Simply contact us online or call us directly at 318.588.6303 to schedule a free consultation today.