Asbestos litigation is increasingly global. For example, a news report indicates that a mesothelioma suit filed in Pittsburgh recently was sent to a court in Brazil. According to the article:
Wales Joins the Governments Seeking to Recover Medical Costs from Asbestos Defendants and/or Insurers
The BBC reports that Wales recently adopted a previously debated law that allows the government to recoup medical costs from an asbestos defendant or insurer found responsible for the injuries that were treated. A prior version of the bill is here. The Association of British Insurers opposed the bill - it's letter is here, along with other legislative history. Further history is here.
Laurie Kazan-Allen runs IBAS and through it continues to work on trying to get asbestos banned in more nations. At the same time, she also heightens awareness around the globe about asbestos claiming.
Eternit plainly appears in the gunsights. For example, a recent Tweet by Laurie linked to an article on cancers and a now abandoned Eternit asbestos-cement plant in Lebanon. And a recent article at the IBAS web site highlights three developments in Brazil as related to Eternit, including this publication on Eternit from a Brazilian government agency. (see news stories of Nov. 7, 13 and 15). In addition, an IBAS news story of Nov. 8 refers to an upcoming decision in France involving an Eternit entity.
Eternit is responding to Brazilian government action targeting the company with respect to claims for relief arising out of past asbestos use An investor call also was held, and is briefly available online until September 5. It includes brief discussion of its reserve of something in the vicinity of $30 million US (80 million real). The exchange there, and in its press release, are not terribly useful for those who understand asbestos but do not know the subtleties of the Brazilian legal system.
Government Asbestos Claims in Brazil Against Eternit - the Claim May Exceed the Value of the Company
Asbestos claiming continues to globalize as against some defendants. Bloomberg is reporting that a Brazilian government agency has filed a new lawsuit seeking from Eternit SA some $420 million of compensation for diseases arising in persons in Brazil who were exposed to and injured by asbestos. The claim is said to exceed the value of the company. The Bloomberg story is online here, and pasted below:
"Eternit SA (ETER3), a Brazilian construction materials manufacturer, fell as prosecutors said they would seek as much as 1 billion reais ($420 million) of compensation on behalf of workers exposed to asbestos.
Eternit’s shares fellك.3 percent to 9.40 reais at 3:23 p.m. in Sao Paulo after earlier declining as much as 4.3 percent in the steepest intraday drop since June 20. The benchmark Ibovespa index addedـ.1 percent.
The Public Ministry of Labor demanded that Eternit compensate workers of an Osasco, Sao Paulo, plant and provide medical treatment, according to a statement on the prosecutors’website. More than 10,000 workers may have been affected. The amount claimed is more than Eternit’s market value of 853.8 million reais as of today.
Eternit, based in Sao Paulo, said in a regulatory filing that it wasn’t notified of the lawsuit.
The civil charges were filed with the labor court in Sao Paulo, and there’s no estimate when the case will be heard, according to the prosecutors’statement.
To contact the reporter on this story: Denyse Godoy in Sao Paulo at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: David Papadopoulos at firstname.lastname@example.org"
Molecular biology is universal. It's also moving incredibly fast these days. Indeed, the rapid pace of biology makes law look especially turtle-like. Over the next few years, the science of cancer will create significant, new issues for lawyers and their clients. Therefore, it's appropriate that molecular biology and cancer have a lead place role in an upcoming asbestos litigation conference in London.
Specifics? Dr. Arnold Brody is a keynote speaker for LexisNexis at its International Asbestos Forum on18 and19 October 2012 at a conference venue close to beautiful Hyde Park. Dr. Brody's 60 minute talk will focus on how/why asbestos causes cancer, as opposed to asbestosis. It's a highly relevant topic as more and more plaintiffs assert that more and more cancers are caused by asbestos. You can obtain a 20% discount on the registration fee by using my initials (KH) as a discount code.
I'll be speaking on the panel on the future of asbestos litigation, as well as presenting analysis on future mesothelioma trends based on epidemiological work by Dr. Peto and others. The numbers are daunting for decades to come - well more than 350,000 mesotheliomas. And that's not even counting tumors to arise in Russia and China.
Are you thinking nothing much is new in asbestos cancer and science? Are you thinking everyone still dies from mesothelioma in less than a year? It may be time to get out and hear some new data. Earlier this month, about 475 physicians and researchers met in Boston to talk - only - about asbestos and disease - for three days - at the iMig Conference. And they were full days - morning sessions started at 8, and were followed by workshop sessions and then poster sessions. Afternoons ran at the same pace, and usually until 6.
Cancer research is racing ahead. Yes, too many people are still dying in less than a year. But,growing numbers of persons with mesothelioma are not dying, or at least surviving for, in some cases, over five years. MicroRNA sequences, for example, are helping doctors understand disease progression of mesothelioma, which translates into providing more accurate clinical information, even if sometimes the information is that death is far too likely. Other scientists see possibilities for new genomic therapies. In short, much science work is in progress and there will be consequences. I'd suggest it's worth your time to come out and listen to thoughts on some of the possibilities.
Quebec has announced it will invest $58 million with private industry in order to cause the reopening of the chrysotile asbestos mine known as the Jeffrey Mine. The desire for jobs is powerful - whether or not it makes for good policy and choices is another matter. Prior posts here and here address some of the asbestos-specific issues raised by this decision. This prior post raises issues regarding how international law can or should intersect with global-scale sales of known carcinogens, such as tobacco and asbestos.
Asbestos litigation continues in Japan. In one litigation, an appellate court upheld a negligence verdict against a former employer (Nippon Express) in a mesothelioma case. As reported here before, the ruling was against plaintiffs in a construction worker case. World Asbestos Report has further details, and notes that an appeal is planned.
This story from Malta Today is pasted below. The article appears to refer to both new lawsuits filed against the Manville Trust in bankruptcy court (see this post from last week) and additional lawsuits said to have been filed in district court in New York.
"The heirs of some 400 former dockyard workers have filed individual and class action lawsuits in the United States, seeking their right to compensation in damages for occupational exposures to asbestos products while working - among other places - on US warships.
Most of the workers have died of malignant mesothelioma caused by the direct and proximate result of occupational exposures to asbestos products while working on US warships while anchored at the then HM Drydocks, which later became the Malta Drydocks.
The cases were filed at the US Bankruptcy Court of New York against a number of companies which provided the asbestos materials for the US warships while in dock. The companies, which have since been declared bankrupt, are still liable for damages under US law.
But the heirs are now challenging the US courts to order a trust - set up to compensate those who became ill from asbestos exposure - to include them after it wrongly concluded that their exposure occurred off US soil.
Under the guidance of the General Workers' Union, families of deceased Drydocks workers have over the past years been put in contact with American lawyers who accepted the cases and are filing their suits for compensation under US law.
Last Tuesday, another two cases were filed at the Manhattan district court of New York by John Tanti of Siggiewi, a personal representative of the estate of Nicholas Borg, and another was filed by the heirs of the late Joseph Balzan of Sta Lucia.
Nicholas Borg passed away in November 2010. He died of asbestosis; his disease and death each being caused as the direct and proximate result of occupational exposures to asbestos products while working in - among other places - US warships docked at the then HM Dockyard in Malta.
Joseph Balzan died of malignant mesothelioma. His disease and death each being caused as the direct and proximate result of occupational exposures to asbestos products while working as a pipefitter, steamfitter and plumber at, among other places, US warships docked at the then HM Dockyard, Malta.
Their heirs have joined a case together with several other former dockyard workers from Britain and Greece who are seeking compensation for diseases and death due to asbestos exposure on US naval ships. They are challenging the US courts to declare those responsible for issuing payment are unfairly discriminating against them because they aren't US citizens.
The allegations form the basis for a newly filed lawsuit related to the 1982 bankruptcy of Johns Manville Corp., a manufacturer of building products that used bankruptcy to resolve a wave of litigation by people claiming to have become ill from the asbestos in its products.
Each man (or his representative) filed a claim against a trust set up to compensate those who became ill from Johns Manville's products.
They say their illnesses resulted from their exposure to the asbestos dust and fibres contained in Johns Manville products found in the US naval ships' boiler rooms, engine rooms and other confined areas. They say the trust has wrongly concluded that their exposure occurred off US soil.
"In the face of both domestic and international law to the contrary, let alone common sense, the trust and the [trust's claims processing company] have each taken the position that active naval warships of the United States Navy, while being repaired, maintained, serviced, or refurbished at both civilian and military shipyards of other nations and the United States, somehow lost their sovereignty as territory of this country," the plaintiffs wrote.
The plaintiffs say the trust's failure to designate their claims as "standard" claims - the designation given to US and Canadian creditors, where the bulk of Johns Manville's operations were located - represents discrimination based on their nationality: "namely, that they are not US citizens".
According to trust documents, holders of standard claims have to prove their injuries meet certain criteria. If they can show this, they're entitled to a pre-set dollar amount. But "non-standard" creditors, as the plaintiffs are currently considered, have to submit their claims for review and payment on an individual basis. The lawsuit specifically asks the bankruptcy court to declare the plaintiffs' claims standard instead of non-standard.
Founded in 1858, the Denver-based Johns Manville emerged from bankruptcy in 1988 and was acquired by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. in 2001.
Court papers show that as of September 30, the Manville trust has paid out more than US$4.2 billion to asbestos personal-injury creditors.
In 2010, Malta Shipyards were ordered to pay over €103,000 in damages to a family for failing to provide the required safety measures against cancer-causing asbestos, which led to the death of a 55-year-old worker.
A judgement handed by Chief Justice Silvio Camilleri, and judges Albert Magri and Tonio Mallia, who presided the Court of Appeals, upheld two judgments previously handed down by a civil court,
The shipyards were held responsible for the death of Joseph Fenech after it was proven that the yards did not provide any protective clothing or masks.
Fenech died in 1997 from a serious case of mesothelioma - a lung cancer caused by asbestos fibre, the Court of Appeals ruled."
Matt Peacock's YouTube Story on Asbestos Use in India - An Example of a Useful Story Made Less Useful by Flawed Factual Assertions
The story is somewhat useful for presenting issues about continuing asbestos use. Unfortunately, the story also highlights the reality that discussions about "toxic risks" are too often conducted in short-hand terms and that facts are often distorted. Thus, the "pro-consumer" line of the story is impaired flawed by a Canadian scientist failing to acknowledge that science does draw lines between the disease-causing potential of different types of asbestos fibers - the lines are real. On the other hand, "industry spokespersons" also fail to state accurate facts about asbestos risks and resulting injuries. The lack of accuracy makes it harder for governments, businesses and consumers to make good choices.
Global Asbestos Claiming - Report on Asbestos Litigation in Nine Nations - Munich Re's Major Compilation of Information
Here is the online image of Munich Re's recent, comprehensive report on asbestos litigation, Asbestos: Anatomy of a Mass Tort. The 112 page report is authored by Nicholas Roenneberg, and is Order number 302-06142. The report can be downloaded and printed from this page.
The same page, on the right hand side, allows you to order a printed copy at no charge.
The report is quite good. It begins with a review of asbestos litigation in North America. The report goes on to explain and explore various factors relevant to reinsurers such as Munich Re.
Beginning at page 58, the report addresses asbestos claiming in other nations in the context of employers' liability. The report covers the UK, Ireland, Italy, Spain, France, Czech Republic, Japan and Brazil. These country-specific reports are well worth reading to better understand the global asbestos claiming situation.
I owe a hat tip and thanks to Christian Lahnstein of Munich Re for bringing the report to my attention this past fall, and for provding value contributions to dialog regarding mass tort claiming. Christian is a very thoughtful thinker and speaker on the subject of asbestos claiming and its consequences. Indeed, he is thoughtful enough that at a dinner before an international asbestos conference this past fall in London, a smart plaintiff's lawyer listened to Christian for a while and then commented that he was surprised to learn that Christian works in the insurance industry.
Asbestos campaigners in the UK have embarked on a 1,200 mile bicycle trip to publicize the need for more medical research into asbestos-related cancers and to publicize asbestos issues. The trip is the subject of a blog known as "Breath-Taking Journey" and is found here. The ride is to end on July 4.
An article here describes a construction group in Dubai trying to raise consciousness regarding asbestos in building projects. This type of activity was what the US went through in the mid to late 1980s, and it spawned tort litigation seeking to recover the costs of coping with asbestos regulations. According to the article:
"By volume, there is more asbestos here than in the UK. The asbestos here is different to what you find back in the UK. It is usually asbestos cement and is classified as a lower risk. There is also legislation but it did not come into effect till 2006 and there is low awareness and a possibility that it is present in projects before that period. Besides, the current law only applies to asbestos boards. So it is legal to use water pipes for water supplies and sewage," said Faulkner. "Hence we are working with Build Safe UAE to create greater awareness among the 90 signatories of BSU."