A Sarasota man was awarded more than $14 million after a Miami-Dade jury decided that the asbestos he inhaled in the 1970s caused his deadly abdominal cancer.
The complaint, filed by William Aubin, against Union Carbide and several other defendants including Georgia-Pacific, alleged they failed to warn construction companies that their joint compounds were made using asbestos.
Aubin allegedly contracted peritoneal mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure in the 1970s while working for his parents’ construction company, Aubin Construction on Key Biscayne.
Peritoneal mesothelioma is a rare — and usually fatal — cancer that attacks the lining of the abdominal cavity and organs.
Juries around the nation are sending companies that knowingly retained asbestos insulating products for decades, this message: you will pay for the cancers and health effects of persons exposed to your asbestos products.
The Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA)
Congress passed the Federal Employers’ Liability Act in 1908. Under the Act, railroad workers are not covered by regular workers’ compensation laws and retain the right to settle or sue their railroad employer over their injury, disease or wrongful death claims.
Unlike State Workers’ Compensation Law, FELA requires the injured railroad worker to prove that the railroad was negligent, at least in part, in causing the injury or disease. After proving negligence, the injured railroad worker is entitled to full compensation (medical expenses, lost wages, pain, impairment, etc) which is theoretically several times greater than that provided by State Worker’s Compensation for non-railroad workers. Plus, workers may request a trial by jury as well.
Although the railroad industry knew of the dangers of asbestos, it wasn’t until 1989 that the EPA issued a final rule that banned new use of asbestos. In fact, railroads using asbestos insulation may have been in use as late as the 1990s which means railroad related mesothelioma cases will continue to increase for many years to come, as asbestos diseases and cancers may manifest 15-50 years after exposure occurs. This significant "latency" period makes asbestos a terrible, and toxic, hazardous material.
Railroads such as Norfolk Southern, CSX, Conrail, and others were heavy historical users of asbestos—steam locomotive engines used massive asbestos sheets to surround the entire massive locomotive engines, and inside the crew cabs to reduce heat, is just one example of many. Further, asbestos was included on nearly all diesel freight engines until those manufactured during the 1990’s.
Also refer to Asbestos Claims Against Railroads – Unique Aspects, for more detailed information about filing a claim under the FELA Act.
Claims against railroads under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act must be brought within three years when the worker knew or should have known that the occupational disease/wrongful death were associated with railroad work. Different limitation periods apply to non-railroad workers and spouse claims, and also to claims against parties besides the railroads.
Obtain a confidential consultation with an attorney experienced in this complicated area of law if you or a family member suffer from a railroad related asbestos disease or cancer.
About the Editors: Shapiro, Cooper, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm (VA-NC law offices ) edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach InjuryBoard, Norfolk InjuryBoard, and Northeast North Carolina InjuryBoard as a pro bono service to consumers.