Victims in Asbestos Lawsuit Awarded $7.25 Million

In early April of 2014, the family of shipbuilder Edward Merwitz was awarded $7.25 million in their lawsuit against RSCC & Cable. The jury who heard the case found in the favor of the family, and they awarded wrongful death damages as well as survivor damages. Mr. Merwitz, 62, died of mesothelioma due to prolonged exposure to asbestos.

Understanding Mesothelioma and the Merwitz Case

Mr. Merwitz was a shipbuilder and he worked at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard between 1965 and 1970. It was during those years they alleged he had exposure to asbestos. This was decades ago, but it is important to remember that the exposure to asbestos and the first appearance of the symptoms is actually long – between  20 and 50 years in most cases. Asbestos mesothelioma is a fatal type of cancer that involves the protective lining that encases many of the human body’s internal organs. This lining, called the mesothelium, can only develop mesothelioma after exposure to asbestos. Because it takes such a long time for the symptoms to develop, many victims of exposure do not even realize they are in danger until decades after the exposure to the asbestos. Mr. Merwitze received his diagnosis in January of 2010 and he passed away just six months later. The family filed lawsuits against nine manufacturers who made asbestos. Eight of those companies reached settlements with the families. The only one that did not reach a settlement was RSCC Wire & Cable. As the case went forward, the family and their attorneys alleged that Merwitz was never actually warned about the dangers of asbestos exposure. In addition, they say that he was never given any type of protective gear to help him protect against the asbestos fibers. Because of this, the unprotected exposure to a substance he did not realize was dangerous caused his death. RSCC Wire & Cable said that the products to which Merwitz was exposed, and which contained asbestos, were not their products, but were instead those of another company. The jury did not agree with them and ultimately found that they were partially liable for the man’s death.

Asbestos Remains a Real Danger

One of the biggest myths surrounding asbestos is that it is no longer a danger and that it was only a problem in the past. That’s not the case though, as it is still in use. Unlike what many people believe, asbestos is not actually banned in the United States or in Canada. According to the EPA, there are at least 3,000 different products commercially used today that contain asbestos. These include brake pads, fire retardant material, and building materials. Many people may have had exposure to asbestos – now or in the past. Many have exposure at work, but it is possible to receive secondary exposure at home. One recent lawsuit shows that asbestos is still a real danger. James Pepe, the plaintiff in the case, alleges that the university medical center where he worked actually fired him when he complained about being exposed to asbestos at work. Pepe requested that the company provide him with protective gear if he had to work with asbestos, but the company did not meet those requests. Pepe filed a complaint with OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and was subsequently fired. He claims that his firing was a direct result of complaining to OSHA about the working conditions. His employers claim there is no correlation between his firing and going to OSHA about the asbestos. Today, more and more people who have been exposed to asbestos know the dangers and are filing lawsuits against employers and manufacturers who did not tell them of the risks they were facing. Previous: Study Finds Similarities in Carbon Nanotube and Asbestos Exposure Next: Baylor College of Medicine to Have Mesothelioma Program Headed by Dr. David Sugarbaker