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Rick Shapiro
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Settlement of $10 Million Reached in Courthouse Asbestos Wrongful Death Case

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As experienced personal injury lawyers with offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC), we have been involved in cases in which railroad workers have been exposed to asbestos and have developed a form of deadly asbestos-induced cancer, mesothelioma, that has claimed countless human lives.

But a lawsuit in Kansas City, Missouri (MO), illustrates how asbestos, if improperly managed even in courthouse buildings, can also cause terrible cancer death.

A $10 million settlement has been agreed to in the wrongful death case of Nancy Lopez, who worked for 27 years in the Jackson County Courthouse in Kansas City.

“The only thing she did wrong was to come to work every day,” Lou Accurso, the Lopezes’ attorney told NewsPressNow. “U.S. Engineering didn’t follow the proper rules and procedures. And there are still significant amounts of asbestos in the courthouse.”

U.S. Engineering as the defendant, was the company accused of mishandling the asbestos. A class action is under way that seeks medical expenses to monitor and evaluate a considerable number of employees’ medical conditions. It’s feared that they, like Lopez, may develop mesothelioma, the asbestos linked cancer for which there is no cure.

Although defendants often argue that asbestos "may not be dangerous" if it is simply left undisturbed in a building, the lawsuit presented the claim that dust laden with asbestos fibers was spread throughout the building and gathered in and around heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems since the early 1980s. A remodeling of the courthouse may have inadvertently made the situation worse due to improper asbestos handling.

Our Virginia-Carolina personal injury lawyers have fought the same "fine if undisturbed" argument when it has been raised by companies we have sued for clients with cancers.

How would you like to work for an employer that issues a memo that tells you there is nothing to fear about the old asbestos insulation in the building you worked in for years? Would you feel safe? Keep in mind that it can take 15 to 40 years for asbestos to ultimately cause cancers like mesothelioma. The ticking time bomb of asbestos has long since been banned from nearly all new products due to its toxicity and cancer-causing properties.

The case in Kansas City makes us wonder how many workers such as railroad conductors, engineers and others rail employees have been exposed to airborne asbestos in any sort of buildings in Virginia, North Carolina and elsewhere. Too many In October 2011, for instance, my firm reported that more than a dozen workers were exposed to asbestos at Surry nuclear power station in Virginia.

The poor record of railroads in protecting workers like engineers and conductors from asbestos exposure is certainly well documented. Our firm has obtained numerous internal documents that make it clear that railroads routinely used asbestos for decades — at least since the 1960s — without providing adequate safety measures for rail workers such as substituting out asbestos insulation.

For these reasons, we represented a railroad worker who in April 2005, 19 years after his voluntary separation from Norfolk Southern as an engineer, was diagnosed with mesothelioma. Also, between 2002 and 2004 our firm represented two railroad workers who died of mesothelioma in wrongful death actions against railroads. Their disease was linked to exposure to asbestos. We obtained confidential settlements for the survivors.

DM

About the Editors: The Shapiro, Cooper, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm, which has offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC), edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as pro bono services.