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Important Asbestos Cases

It is shocking to think that in our country’s recent history, businesses could get away with exposing employees and consumers to dangerous levels of asbestos, a substance known to be highly toxic. Yet early attempts to protect workers and the general public met a good deal of legal hurdles. Early asbestos claims were met with much resistance from businesses, who claimed ignorance of the mineral’s dangers.

These days, while victims of asbestos exposure still face legal struggles, the path to receiving fair compensation is comparatively easier. Thanks to the efforts of early asbestos attorneys, important legal precedents have been set for plaintiffs in asbestos claims. Companies that expose people to asbestos without adequate protection can no longer claim to be unaware of the risks they are taking.

This article will review some of the important cases in the history of asbestos litigation, and the impact they have had on current litigation.

  • 1966: Claude Tomplait, a victim of asbestosis, filed a lawsuit against 11 asbestos manufacturers with the help of asbestos attorney Ward Stephenson. His claim was that these companies failed to warn him about the dangers of asbestos. Sadly, the case was ultimately settled in favor of the defendants, who said they were unaware of these dangers.
  • 1969: Attorney Ward Stephenson filed a similar claim on behalf of one of Tomplait’s co-workers, a man named Clarence Borel who had been diagnosed with mesothelioma. Sadly, Borel died before the case was resolved in favor of his estate in 1970. After this victory, more victims of asbestos exposure across the US began to pursue claims of their own.
  • 1974: Another important victory was won by Steven Kazan, an attorney working on behalf of asbestosis sufferer Reba Rudkin. Her employer, Johns-Manville (also targeted by the lawsuits above) claimed that workers’ compensation was adequate to cover the costs of her injuries. However, Kazan uncovered evidence that the company knew about the health risk of asbestos and deliberately hid this knowledge from the public. This evidence helped Rudkin win her claim, and opened the door for further litigation.
  • 1981: The California Supreme Court ruled that other employees like Rudkin could file lawsuits against employers when similar conditions existed, despite receiving workers’ compensation. This important decision helped mesothelioma victims around the country finally receive the fair treatment they deserved.

With precedent-setting cases like these, and current legislation regarding workplace and consumer safety, victims of asbestos exposure can now receive repayment for medical bills, lost income, and other losses in some cases. When successful, these claims can help victims of corporate negligence receive the financial assistance they need, in addition to seeing that justice is served.

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