The Intersection Among Torts, Science, Corporate Law, Insurance & Bankruptcy

Dissolution Rates of Tremolite, and Possible Implications

Posted in Asbestos, Science

Researchers continue to quantify facts related to different types of fibers implicated in asbestos-related disease.  A new article provides data on the dissolution process related to tremolite. It is Tamara Diedrich et al, An experimental study of tremolite dissolution rates as a function of pH and temperature: Implications for tremolite toxicity and its use in carbon storage,  10.1180/minmag.2014.078.6.12,  v. 78 no. 6 p. 1449-1464. The abstract explains:


Steady-state tremolite dissolution rates, at far-from-equilibrium conditions, were measured as a function of aqueous silica and magnesium activity, pH from 1.9 to 6.7, and temperature from 25 to 150°C. Calcium is released from tremolite faster than either Mg or Si throughout most of the experiments even after these latter elements attained steady-state release rates. The preferential removal of Ca releases fine Mg-Si rich needle-like fibres from the tremolite, probably promoting its toxicity. In contrast, Mg was released in stoichiometric or near to stoichiometric proportion to Si once steady-state was attained. Measured steady-state tremolite dissolution rates based on Si release can be described usingFormulawhere r+ signifies the BET surface area-normalized forward tremolite steady-state dissolution rate, AA refers to a pre-exponential factor = 6 × 10−3 mol cm−2 s−1, EA designates an activation energy equal to 80 kJ mol−1, R represents the gas constant, T denotes absolute temperature, and ai refers to the activity of the subscripted aqueous species. This rate expression is consistent with tremolite dissolution rates at acidic pH being controlled by the detachment of partially liberated silica tetrahedra formed from the exchange of Mg2+ for two protons near the mineral surface after the near-surface Ca has been removed. Nevertheless, Mg release rates from tremolite are ~3 orders of magnitude slower than those from forsterite and enstatite suggesting that tremolite carbonation will be far less efficient than the carbonation of these other Mg-silicate minerals. (emphasis added).

Eternit Faces Lawsuits in Columbia for Two Familial Cancers (a Lung Cancer and a Mesothelioma)

Posted in Asbestos, International Asbestos, Uncategorized

At the IBAS News Archive for January , 015, Laurie Kazan Allen reported that Eternit is now facing asbestos lawsuits in Columbia. The first lawsuit is said to involve  a father dying of lung cancer and then his son dying of mesothelioma; the father worked at an Eternit factory in Columbia.

Mesothelioma from a Power Plant in Mongolia

Posted in Asbestos, International Asbestos

The asbestos marketing news sites run 24/7, and so press releases and web site posts (e.g.  here and here) are busy spreading news of a mesothelioma in Mongolia. There is no mention – yet – of a related claim to a trust or a suit In Madison County, Illinois.  There actually is a supporting medical journal article in a journal with David Egilman as its Editor-in-Chief.   Damiran, N, “Mesothelioma in Mongolia: case report”, January 13, 2015, International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, Epub ahead of print,

Set out below are key excerpts from one press release:

“Raleigh, NC (PRWEB) January 17, 2015

Scientists at the Health Sciences University of Mongolia are warning the country to set up an asbestos disease registry to keep track of mesothelioma cases after the first case of the disease was identified in a power plant worker. Click here to read the full story on the Surviving Mesothelioma website.

Doctors in the School of Public Health say Mongolia’s first mesothelioma case is a 47-year-old woman who spent 28 years in a coal-burning thermal power plant. Asbestos was heavily used in Mongolian power plants, as it has been elsewhere in the world.


The report in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health recommends that Mongolia set up a registry to track future mesothelioma cases.”

2014 Madison County Asbestos Case Filing Data

Posted in Asbestos

Ann Maher at Legal Newsline continues to help asbestos lawyers everywhere by tracking and reporting on Madison County’s asbestos docket. The numbers for 2014 are in, and are set out in a January 12, 2014 article. Key data is pasted below.  The numbers reflect the reality that defendants continue to not push cases out of Madison County. Prior articles detail some but not all of the realities of the situation.


EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. (Legal Newsline) - Madison County, Ill., asbestos filings in 2014 were down from the previous record-setting year by approximately 20 percent.

In all, there were 1,300 cases filed in 2014, compared to 1,678 in 2013.

While the number of new cases over the previous year are down, Madison County’s docket has doubled in the last four years and tripled in the last seven.

Filings in 2013 were remarkable for a wave of lung cancer claims, new cases in 2014 were dominated by mesothelioma claims.

Out-of-state claimants continue to make up the vast majority of cases. Only 109 of the 1,300 2014 claimants reside in Illinois, or less than nine percent. Only 12 of the 109 Illinoisans reside in Madison County, or less than 1 percent.


-Mesothelioma cases: 76 percent, or 988;

-Lung cancer cases: 23 percent, or 294; and

-Other: 1 percent, or 18.

Firms and cases

-Simmons: 29 percent, or 379;

-Gori: 19.5 percent, or 254;

-Maune Raichle: 15.5 percent, or 202;

-Napoli: 10.1 percent, or 132;

-SWMK: 7.3 percent, or 95;

-Shrader: 6.5 percent, or 85;

-Flint: 5.4 percent, or 71;

-O’Brien: 1.6 percent, or 21;

-Richardson Patrick: 1.4 percent, or 19;

-Goldenberg: 1.2 percent, or 16; and

-Schoen: 0.9 percent, or 12;

The remaining one percent were filed by Perica (six); Gori and Lanier (four); Bilbrey (one); and others (three) not immediately known as docket entries were unavailable at Madison County courthouse public access computers.

More Insurer Fraud Identified in Super Storm Sandy Litigation – Major Hearing Ahead

Posted in Fraud, Insurance, Litigation Industry, Mass Tort Issues

An update on the apparent wave of fraud in Super Storm Sandy litigation by property insurers and their experts and lawyers. In short, the situation is growing worse for insurers and their agents. In a new ruling, a panel of three Magistrate Judges wrote that it appears that at least 4 more examples of gross fraud by insurers were identified by plaintiff’s counsel, and a major hearing is now set for January 28, 2015. By that time, both defendants and plaintiffs are to to have produced all draft and final expert reports. An overview is provided by a December 9, 2014 post at Chip Merlin’s blog. In addition, there is some action towards FEMA opening an investigation into claims practices at insurers, and reopening review of past claims. These topics are covered in a December 11, 2014 post by policyholder lawyers at Reed Smith.

Set out below are key excerpts from the new ruling:

“Counsel alerted the Committee to four apparent instances of improper practices with respect to damage reports relied upon by insurance carriers, several of which affect pending cases. For example, in Shlyonsky v. Travelers Insurance Co., 13-CV-05393(RJD)(JMA), and Dweck v. Hartford Insurance Co. of the Midwest, 14 CV 6920 (ERK) (JMA), plaintiffs submitted documents which appear to show that another engineering firm, HiRise Engineering, rewrote the reports of the licensed inspecting engineer; in both cases the original reports which documented extensive storm damage were altered to reflect an absence of such damage or suggest pre-existing damage. DE [830], [840], [841]. The submissions seem to suggest that the inspecting engineer’s signature was apparently cut and pasted onto the modified reports. Id.

[In footnote 5, the panel said:  “In fact, the materials submitted include a sworn affidavit from the inspecting engineer attesting to the fact that “Hi Rise lifted my signature and seal from the True Report and affixed said seal and signature to the False Report” and that the final report relied upon by the insurer “is a forgery.”DE [840]-5.”]

Similarly, plaintiffs have submitted engineering reports prepared in connection with two additional homes, one owned by Joseph and Patricia Giovinco, and the other owned by Sang Hahn. See Giovinco et al v. Fidelity National Property & Casualty Insurance Co., 14-CV-3937(ADS)(SIL). In both cases, Michael Garove—the same engineer who conducted the “peer review”in Raimey, allegedly authored the U.S. Forensic engineering reports upon which the carriers relied in denying coverage. 14-CV-461, DE [100]. Plaintiffs have provided evidence that Garove never inspected either of the subject homes. Rather, plaintiffs contend, and have provided supporting documentation that engineers not licensed in New York conducted the inspections. Id. Both insureds appealed the determination that there was no flood damage, but FEMA rejected their appeals. Id.

These allegations, if true, raise a number of important issues that must be resolved. By way of example, some of the other plaintiffs may be entitled to Rule 37 relief like that afforded in Raimey. However, before conducting another partial hearing, it seems prudent to await production and review of the draft reports to be produced shortly, and conduct a hearing relating to all affected cases. As such, the Committee will hold an evidentiary hearing on these matters on January 28, 2015 at 10:00 a.m. in the Ceremonial Courtroom of the United States Courthouse, 225 Cadman Plaza East, Brooklyn, N.Y., to evaluate all claims of altered or otherwise improper practices relating to damages reports. The prospect of this hearing, however, should not delay any of the scheduled mediations or other deadlines, and the parties should proceed accordingly.”

Looking Ahead and Looking Back – The Death of the Last of the Radium Girls

Posted in Litigation Industry, Science

Looking ahead to a new year is enjoyable. But a look back at history often is useful. A cautionary tale about what we know – and do not know – arises from a December 29, 2014 NPR story  on the death of the last of the “radium girls.” They died from the inside out due to radium poisoning after painting radium on to the faces of watches to make them glow. Imagine this set of facts as a modern day set of mass tort claims.

Possible Consequences of Precise Electronic Records of Communications Between Drug Companies and Doctors

Posted in Litigation Industry, Science

Technology continues to create new topics for mass tort litigation. For example, there are now FDA proposals for electronic communication of drug warnings to doctors, as described in a December 29, 2014 post at Drug and Device blog.  The post sagely pointed out some of the resulting e-discovery that may emerge. Note, however, that some of the future possibilities already exist. How?  Through CRM software aimed at tracking intersections between doctors and drug company representatives. The provider company is known as Veeva – see www.

Also think another step down the road. When electronic warnings are put in place, how fast will the duty to warn attach when new information indicates a problem with a drug? And, what will happen when e-records show the doctor had NOT read the record when making a recommendation to a patient, and the doctor testifies that the substance of the warning was not yet actually known to her? What happens if aggregate data shows that most doctors in fact do not read warnings, or delegate the job to a nurse practitioner?

A further point. A company known as Flatiron is now working with some major cancer centers to compile anonymized medical records for use in cancer research. Flatiron scans and compiles both hard data (test results) and soft data (talks with patient). How soon will some groups in the US implement  a system in which medical files are read and a computerized warning is then automatically generated and sent to the doc. E.g. “Your records show patient X has a family history of XYZ cancer. Last week, XYZ cancer  was newly linked to a gene mutation that was previously unknown. You should consider genetic testing for the patient and family.”

Times change. So do liability risks, and so do the possible methods for reducing or eliminating risks.

Cancer Epidemiologists Ask: “Prescription drug use during pregnancy and risk of childhood cancer – Is there an association?”

Posted in Cancer, Litigation Industry, Mass Tort Issues, Science

Questions, questions. For the last few decades, medical study databases have been growing, and so more data is available for study. As a result, researchers can usefully ask more questions about disease causation. As new questions are asked, new “associations” can and sometimes do emerge. Those results, at different levels of overall risk (OR), raise more questions. The point is highlighted by a new paper on whether there are associations between prescription drug use during pregnancy and childhood cancers. The abstract is online, and states the following:


“Prescription drug use during pregnancy and risk of childhood cancer – Is there an association?
A. Bonaventure, J. Simpson, P. Ansell, E. Roman, T. Lightfoot
Received: October 13, 2014; Accepted: October 16, 2014; Published Online: December 17, 2014
Publication stage: In Press Corrected Proof

•We examined risk of childhood cancer following maternal prescription medication use in pregnancy.
•Iron prescription was associated with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, Wilms tumour and medulloblastoma.
•Antibiotic use was associated with acute myeloid leukaemia and rhabdomyosarcoma.
•Analgesic use was associated with neuroblastoma and Hodgkin lymphoma.
In economically developed countries up to 90% of women are prescribed medications, including vitamins and supplements, during pregnancy. Whilst a number of adverse health outcomes in their offspring have been related to prescription drug use, associations with childhood cancer are less clear and most investigations have been reliant on maternal self-report. With a view to providing new insight we investigated maternal prescription drug use and risk of childhood cancer primary care medical records collected as part of the United Kingdom Childhood Cancer Study, a national population-based case–control study conducted between 1991 and 1996. There was evidence that mothers of children with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (OR 1.36, 95% CI 1.14–1.63), medulloblastoma (OR 1.79, 95% CI 1.00–3.22) and Wilms tumour (OR 1.79; 95% CI 1.05–3.04) were more likely to have been prescribed iron when compared to mothers of controls. In addition, systemic anti-infectives were positively associated with acute myeloid leukaemia (OR 1.58, 95% CI: 1.05–2.38) and rhabdomyosarcoma (OR 1.80, 95% CI 1.03–3.16), and analgesic use (NO2B) was positively associated with Hodgkin lymphoma (OR 5.02, 95% CI 2.16–11.82) and neuroblastoma (OR 1.99, 95% CI 1.07–3.69). Whilst our findings suggest that maternal use of antibiotics, iron, and nervous system drugs during pregnancy may be associated with some childhood cancer subtypes these associations need to be confirmed elsewhere. Unravelling the mechanisms that may underpin these associations is complex and research is needed to determine whether they are directly related to the drugs themselves, or the illnesses for which they were prescribed.”

Welding Fumes Study Highlights the Value of Checking Multiple Variables in Multiple Ways

Posted in Mass Tort Issues, Science

Data matters. Data can matter even more when its collected across more than one variable in a real time and real world context. Consider the following results from monitoring of workplace exposures to chromium and nickel during welding. Note the exponential difference between the fit for the reference data for air data and the fit for the reference data from urine. Note also that chromium and nickel are not the same in terms of collecting data from urine. The study might have been even better if blood were monitored for differential microRNA expression patterns.

The paper is: Bertram, et al, Human Biomonitoring of Chromium and Nickel from an Experimental Exposure to Manual Metal Arc Welding Fumes of Low and High Alloyed Steel,  Ann Occup Hyg (2014)doi: 10.1093/annhyg/meu104, First published online: December 15, 2014. The abstract is online here, and pasted below.


“Objectives: The uptake and elimination of metals from welding fumes is currently not fully understood. In the Aachen Workplace Simulation Laboratory (AWSL) it is possible to investigate the impact of welding fumes on human subjects under controlled exposure conditions. In this study, the uptake and elimination of chromium or chromium (VI) respectively as well as nickel was studied in subjects after exposure to the emissions of a manual metal arc welding process using low or high alloyed steel.

Methods: In this present study 12 healthy male non-smokers, who never worked as welders before, were exposed for 6h to welding fumes of a manual metal arc welding process. In a three-fold crossover study design, subjects were exposed in randomized order to either clean air, emissions from welding low alloyed steel, and emissions from welding high alloyed steel. Particle mass concentration of the exposure aerosol was 2.5mg m−3. The content of chromium and nickel in the air was determined by analysing air filter samples on a high emission scenario. Urine analysis for chromium and nickel was performed before and after exposure using methods of human biomonitoring.

Results: There were significantly elevated chromium levels after exposure to welding fumes from high alloyed steel compared to urinary chromium levels before exposure to high alloyed welding fumes, as well as compared to the other exposure scenarios. The mean values increased from 0.27 µg l−1 to 18.62 µg l−1. The results were in good agreement with already existing correlations between external and internal exposure (German exposure equivalent for carcinogenic working materials EKA). The variability of urinary chromium levels was high. For urinary nickel no significant changes could be detected at all.

Conclusions: Six-hour exposure to 2.5mg m−3 high alloyed manual metal arc welding fumes lead to elevated urinary chromium levels far higher (7.11–34.16 µg l−1) than the German biological exposure reference value (BAR) of 0.6 µg l−1 directly after exposure. On the other hand mean urinary nickel concentrations slightly increased, but did not exceed background levels due to lower bioavailability. We could underline with our single exposure experiment that a welding work related chromium exposure can be measured immediately after the work shift, while the same is not possible for nickel exposure due to lower nickel bioavailability. The data provide useful information for real occupational welding work places.” (underlining added)