It is a deadly, potentially aggressive type of cancer. Unfortunately, many railroad workers learned about mesothelioma after working around railroads, breathing in asbestos fibers, and suddenly being diagnosed with this deadly cancer later in life.
Asbestos was used extensively in the railroad industry for much for the 20th century. This meant that on-the-job exposure to the toxic fibers was quite common for rail employees such as conductors, engineers, yardmen, etc. Despite this serious health risk, many big railroad companies (e.g., Norfolk Southern, CSX, Conrail, etc.) failed to take any affirmative steps to reduce asbestos exposure for their employees. In fact, most the railroads knew about the link between asbestos exposure and cancer for years and did not even inform their employees of this potential cancer risk.
The railroad cancer attorneys with Shapiro, Appleton & Duffan have represented numerous railroad workers who devoted their entire careers to working for the railroad and were later diagnosed with mesothelioma or asbestos induced lung cancer during their proverbial “golden” years. Our team of attorneys have heard all of the excuses from corporate railroad defense lawyers to try and deny liability. Fortunately, we have historical facts, environmental analyses and medical science on our side. Here’s a brief overview of how we deploy each to ensure that railroad workers can hold their employers accountable for the negligence and indifference that harmed them.
Finding Asbestos in the Rail Industry
Many railroad jobs before the 1990s brought an employee within breathing distance of asbestos fibers-often invisible to the naked eye. Records from parts producers, maintenance shops and building materials manufacturers reveal that asbestos was used in engine heat shields, steam boilers, pipe covers, cable housings, brake pads, wallboards, bulk insulation and fire-retardant paints and tiles.
Documents also exist to show that railroad executives and health care providers knew as early as the 1930s that working with and around asbestos posed dangers for lung damage and a range of cancers. Corporations strove to conceal and discredit that evidence, but the U.S. government essentially outlawed putting asbestos into new products in the 1980s.
Those late-arriving regulations allowed older equipment remain in use, in part because railroads expressed concerns over the cost of rapidly replacing unsafe locomotives and cars, renovating dangerous buildings and switching out toxic insulators. As a consequence, millions were left at risk for mesothelioma and other asbestosis-related cancers and diseases for many years. Subpoenaing corporate records and filing Freedom of Information Act requests during the discovery and deposition process before a civil court hearing often yields invaluable information on railroad’s ongoing failures to publicly acknowledge or meaningfully reduce asbestos risks.
Uncovering Asbestos Exposure
One of the first questions attorneys with our railroad worker injury law firm ask former employees is “What were your job titles, and what were your duties?” Collecting this information gives a good sense of what equipment you may have used on the job and offers a general sense of the types of exposure you may have had to asbestos.
For example, a repair shop worker who ground brake components to achieve custom fits would likely have breathed in quite a bit of asbestos. Likewise, an engineer who spent most of his career operating steam locomotives would have encountered a great deal of particulate asbestos, as would a clerk whose main office was located in a busy roundhouse, or at a shop where asbestos insulating materials were often used. Engineers and conductors rode in locomotive engines laden with asbestos insulating materials, and most never even knew it was present.
The work history also guides research into sources of exposure and degrees of disease risk. A first step is to consult with experts on railroad history and representatives of rail employee unions who can share information on equipment specifications. Learning how asbestos was incorporated into the design of equipment, the rate at which objects deteriorated and made asbestos airborne, and if safety factors existed to reduce asbestos exposure helps draw the connection between job responsibilities and mesothelioma, asbestosis or cancers.
Relying on Health Experts
The second stage of building a case for compensation for a railroad asbestos disease involves securing testimony from workplace health experts and doctors. Industrial hygienists and occupational medical specialists are especially helpful for providing context on exposure to toxic and cancerous materials on the job at railroads.
Industrial hygienists specialize in designing and evaluating worksites for safety. “Hygiene” implies taking a systemic approach to health, and that involves much more than cleanliness. One example of a service an industrial hygienists might provide to a business is reviewing old building plans to find and remove (abate) hidden and forgotten asbestos insulation.
These professionals can perform the same types of analyses for railroad workers suffering from asbestos-related diseases. An experienced and knowledgeable attorney who handles personal injury and wrongful death cases brought under laws like the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) will be able to consult with an industrial hygienist who is familiar with railroads and trains.
An occupational medicine specialist who looks at a railroad employees’ work history, employee-specific industrial hygiene review and the ill plaintiff’s medical records can reach a professional opinion regarding whether asbestos exposure occurred and whether that exposure likely caused the illness. Becoming an occupational medicine specialist requires holding an MD and earning a board certification after completing extensive training in evaluating toxic substances and examining patients who may have encountered those substances in their occupation.
Extensive work goes into collecting and presenting evidence on behalf of the worker in a railroad asbestos case. Why? Because the big railroad corporations spend millions and tie up courts for years trying to deny any restitution to their former employees. A prime example is a case our firm has litigated for nearly a decade. Rick Shapiro, a partner at Shapiro, Appleton & Duffan, represented a railroad worker who was exposed to asbestos, diesel exhaust fumes and radiation. The worker was diagnosed with lung cancer after working for a big railroad, CSX, for four decades. CSX refused to offer a reasonable settlement and fought the case for years. In fact, the railroad worker died while the case was still pending. The railroad has devoted substantial resources to continue litigating the case, years after a jury in Knoxville, Tennessee awarded the railroad worker’s estate $8.6 million through two levels of court appeals, resulting in yet another trial that the court’s ruled would be limited to the matter of damages only.
If you or a loved one was diagnosed with mesothelioma, or any other type of cancer, after working for a railroad, you need experienced, aggressive attorneys who are willing to tirelessly represent your interests against a major railroad. Do not fight them alone.
To learn more about mesothelioma and its connection to asbestos exposure, download this free PDF report.
Richard N. Shapiro is a partner at Shapiro, Appleton & Duffan in Virginia Beach, Va. He is certified as a Civil Trial Advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy, a prolific U.S. inventor and product designer, and has litigated wrongful death, trucking, faulty products, railroad and medical negligence claims throughout the Eastern United States.
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Company Name: Shapiro, Appleton and Duffan
Contact Person: Richard
Address:1294 Diamond Springs Rd.
City: Virginia Beach
Country: United States