Goodman, Meagher & Enoch, LLP pioneered the way for asbestos litigation in Maryland with the first product liability suit filed in this state on behalf of an asbestos victim. Since then, the firm’s asbestos attorneys have represented hundreds of shipyard workers, boilermakers, steelworkers, construction trades and similar individuals who have been injured by exposure to this deadly mineral.
A legal claim for asbestos exposure and disease in Maryland is likely to be resolved by one or more of the following means: litigation (individual or consolidated with other cases), a class action, a court- approved settlement, an administrative claim or settlement, or a claim filed in bankruptcy.
How your case is handled will depend in large part on what companies are responsible for your injury, and the present status of those companies.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring, fibrous mineral that was widely used in the manufacture of a variety of products beginning in the late nineteenth century. The majority of exposure to asbestos occurred between 1940 and 1980, in occupations such as construction, shipyards, railroads, insulation, steel manufacturing, automobile repair, and other related fields. Asbestos fibers are released into the air. These fibers are inhaled by workers and remain in the lungs where they can cause disease. We believe the evidence shows that the companies which manufactured these asbestos containing products knew that their products would injure people, and they actively conspired to hide this information in order to keep selling their products, and as a result they are now being held liable for the resulting injuries.
It is generally medically accepted that asbestos can cause various types of lung diseases, including pleural changes, with or without impairment, and asbestosis, which is a fibrosis or scarring of the parenchyma of the lungs, also with or without impairment. Also associated with asbestos exposure are certain cancers of the lung, and a very rare cancer of the lining of the lung, or lining of the stomach, called mesothelioma.
In certain limited circumstances, there has been an association between asbestos exposure and other cancers of the digestive tract such as esophageal, laryngeal, kidney, stomach, and colonrectum cancers. The association of these non-lung diseases and asbestos exposure is not as widely accepted as with the first group of diseases mentioned above.
The average latency period for asbestos related disease is typically ten to twenty years from the first exposure, although in some, more rare, instances diseases may develop in shorter or longer time frames. Often a single individual may contract more than one form of disease. Proving that you suffer from an asbestos related disease is but one component of your asbestos case.
Exposure to asbestos can cause a scarring of the lung tissue known as asbestosis. The diagnosis of asbestosis depends on the situation of an individual client. Ordinarily, many asbestos company defendants will not voluntarily discuss settlement of these cases unless the medical diagnosis of asbestosis shows at least 3 of the following:
- abnormal respiratory sounds heard by the physician in both lungs;
- rating of 1/0 or more on the chest x-ray;
- forced vital capacity less than 80% of predicted;
- total lung capacity of less than 80% of predicted;
- single breath diffusing capacity of less than 80% of predicted.
The forced vital capacity is a measure of the client’s ability to force air out of his lungs as rapidly and completely as possible. The diffusing capacity is a measure of the ability of the lungs to exchange oxygen and carbon monoxide. When you have been seen by a pulmonary specialist, and submit to chest x-ray and pulmonary function studies, these tests are performed and the doctor issues a report, which indicates his opinion as to whether or not you suffer from asbestosis. Some individuals who do not have asbestosis nevertheless show signs of asbestos exposure on the lining of (as opposed to inside of) their lungs, which is indicated by findings of things called pleural thickening or pleural plaques. There is certain debate among physicians as to whether these thickening and plaque formation abnormalities in the lining of the lungs cause that patient to have any impairment.
Asbestos also has been linked to various cancers. Unfortunately, with the exception of mesothelioma, it is usually not possible for a physician to diagnose a particular tumor and state that it was caused by any particular substance merely by doing some kind of test. In cancer cases, physicians can often state an opinion as to whether asbestos contributed to the development of that cancer but that opinion is largely one of statistics and epidemiology. In other words, there are statistics which show that individuals who are exposed to asbestos have a five times greater chance of developing lung cancer than individuals who are not exposed to asbestos. There are certain things that a physician can look at in a cancer case, such as the primary site of the tumor, the history of asbestos exposure, and sometimes a measure of the number of asbestos bodies in the lung, that make it possible for him to bolster his opinion that a particular cancer was caused in substantial part by exposure to asbestos, but this is not an exact science.
One exception to this is a particular kind of cancer, which affects the lining of the lung or chest cavity or heart sac known as mesothelioma. In North America, exposure to asbestos is the only likely cause of that form of cancer.