A Pennsylvania man's widow recently won $159,000 in an asbestos product liability lawsuit against Sears Roebuck & Co. The man died in 2009, one month after he was diagnosed with mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma is an aggressive form of cancer primarily caused by asbestos exposure. The man was exposed to asbestos while repairing, removing and installing car brakes manufactured by Sears, among other companies. Mesothelioma has a long latency period, so the man did not show symptoms until many decades after his asbestos exposure. In October 2009, he began to experience shortness of breath and a dry cough that continued to get worse. After going to a doctor, the man learned that he had fluid in his lungs from pleural mesothelioma.
Pleural mesothelioma is the most common type of mesothelioma and impacts the pleural membrane, which provides support for the lungs and chest cavity. Common symptoms of pleural mesothelioma include a nonproductive dry cough, swallowing problems and breathing problems. Individuals with advanced pleural mesothelioma may also experience bloody coughs, persistent chest pain and lumps underneath their skin.
Asbestos was commonly used in many types of consumer products and construction materials until the Environmental Protection Agency began to phase out asbestos products in the late 1970s. Many types of materials still in use today contain asbestos, including adhesives, insulation, ceiling and floor tiles, and hair dryers.
The Pennsylvania man was exposed to asbestos several times during his life. His first known exposure was in 1944 while working in a rigger's ship at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. He continued to have asbestos exposure while working on cars between 1954 and 1970 and while putting asbestos-containing insulation on his house in 1957. There were no warnings on the brakes or insulation materials, so he did not use protective gear when working with either product.
Additionally, the man and his entire family were exposed to asbestos when a new roof was installed on their house in 1973. Family members were in close proximity to the area where the asbestos-containing shingles were being cut. The roofers likely did not use any protective gear while working with the asbestos-containing materials because the asbestos industry resisted advising the public regarding the dangerous nature of their products. This means that thousands of individuals have developed mesothelioma unnecessarily since the dangers associated with asbestos use were first discovered in the 1930s.