Mesothelioma Claims Increase as Asbestos Settlements Are Curbed

José Goulão, Flickr.

José Goulão, Flickr.

SODOM & GOMORRAH: The competing sides in the mesothelioma settlement debate are getting it all wrong, and the cancer victims themselves will suffer for it.

Asbestos is a naturally occuring silicate mineral that has historically been exploited for its desirable physical properties. Asbestos first became popular in the late 19th century because it could absorb sound, resist fire, insulate from heat, and could withstand chemical and electrical damage. Asbestos has been mixed with cement and woven into fabric. The mineral itself occurs as a long, fibrous crystal.

Research has linked asbestos inhalation to an otherwise rare form of malignant lung cancer called mesothelioma. Since the linkage was paid, lawyers have spent enormous sums of money to find mesothelioma victims and help them win even larger amounts for asbestos settlements.

Cancer takes years to develop. In Korea, mesothelioma claims are expected to skyrocket in the coming decades as people who inhaled asbestos during their careers develop the disease. However, prior to the research into mesothelioma, firms didn’t know that the disease would kill their workers. One could make the argument that they wouldn’t care if they did know, but putting a toxic mineral in fiber and concrete and letting customers live and work in such buildings is bad for business – the minute you decide to rennovate your house, you find yourself exposed to a lethal carcinogen.

In such cases, the firms are punished for something they didn’t know about. The Scottish Supreme Court recently ruled that mesothelioma claims would continue to be heard; insurers responded that they didn’t have enough money to pay victims for damages. Asbestos settlements are likely to become smaller or disappear altogether for some victims. The gravely ill will likely not receive any compensation while those who are not as ill will collect what money there is until insurers run out.  Politicians and unions have responded in kind by demanding that victims “must” be paid out.  Lawyers, as to be expected, continue to solicit mesothelioma claims on behalf of patients in order to win big settlements.

The real tragedy here is the people with the disease.  The firms don’t care because they didn’t know. The insurers would prefer people stop sueing because of the associated costs. Mesothelioma lawyers (granted, not all) don’t care because they only want big payouts, even if the very ill are cut out of the deals. The unions and politicians don’t care because they just want to be seen as pro-worker. Interested parties have made this about the size and frequency of asbestos settlements – meanwhile, people die.