Merlin Olsen was a professional football player that spent his entire career with the National Football League, which lasted from 1962 to 1976, playing for the Los Angeles Rams. Olsen was a member of the Rams’ “Fearsome Foursome” during the 1960s. Before going pro Olsen played for and attended Utah State University, where he was named an All American. After retiring from pro football, Olsen went on to appear in the television series, “Little House on the Prairie,” as well as commercials and various NFL broadcasts.
In 2000 Olson was selected by Sports Illustrated as one of Utah’s “Top 50 Athletes of the Century.” He was named to the Football Hall of Fame in 1982.
Diagnosis and Causation
Olsen’s fight with mesothelioma began in 2009. Upon being diagnosed, he reportedly underwent several courses of chemotherapy prior to his death in March 2010.
Survival rates among patients diagnosed with mesothelioma are usually shorter than other types of cancer. The American Cancer Society notes an average life expectancy of between 4 and 18 months following diagnosis. This poor prognosis is due to the cancer’s long latency period of 20 to 50 years, during which time the malignancy is able to metastasize to various locations throughout the body via the lymphatic and blood system.
It is thought that Merlin Olsen was first exposed to asbestos when he worked on construction sites during his youth. Common jobsites associated with asbestos production and use were shipyards, chemical, and power plants, along with the automotive and mining industries. Asbestos was once considered an inexpensive and resilient substance for use in insulation, piping, and fitting applications requiring a material that could withstand high temperatures. It soon became evident that this “miracle mineral” carried with it serious health risks; however, the U.S. Federal government did not institute regulations against the fatal substance until the 1970s and 80s.
Litigation recently ended between the family of Merlin Olsen and 10 unnamed companies after Olsen’s wife and three children filed a notice of settlement between themselves and unnamed companies they believe to have either manufactured products with asbestos in them or had it in the work environment Olsen was in.
Currently, Olsen’s attorneys and family have not released information concerning the specific companies who were defendants in Olsen’s case, leaving little more than speculation as to who was responsible. Olsen was only 69 years old when he died.