Mesothelioma is a fatal disease caused by exposure to asbestos and it has been the subject of many serious personal injury cases and wrongful death claims over the years here in Indiana and Illinois. Our law firm has been representing mesothelioma victims and their families for many years, and it’s never easy to deal with — this is a truly horrific disease.
Why? One reason is that mesothelioma is complicated: it takes on various forms, like pleural mesothelioma; peritoneal mesothelioma; and pericardial mesothelioma. Each type of mesothelioma targets a different part of the human body to attack and destroy. Pleural mesothelioma goes after the lungs, etc., while pericardial mesothelioma attacks the heart and lymphatic system.
Key here is that mesothelioma, in all its configurations, is a fatal and incurable disease. It kills its victims.
New Indiana Supreme Court Ruling Helps Mesothelioma Patients Get Justice
This spring, the Indiana Supreme Court issued its opinion in the case of Myers v. Crouse-Hinds Division Of Cooper Industries, Inc. (read the Order Denying the Defendants’ Motion for Rehearing here).
This case is important to Hoosiers because the state’s high court ruled that Indiana Products Liability Act (Ind. Code §§ 34-20-3-1,-2) does not apply (in part) to mesothelioma victims. This is a godsend to many victims of asbestos exposure and their families.
Why? It means the Products Liability Act cannot be used by defendants as a shield from liability when they are faced with a personal injury or wrongful death claim based upon asbestos exposure and a resulting mesothelioma diagnosis.
It will allow mesothelioma victims and their families justice in situations where in the past, the negligent companies and corporations who had been sued for damages could simply evade responsibility by pointing to the calendar and arguing the case was filed too late under the Act.
What did the Indiana Supreme Court do exactly?
The Indiana Supreme Court heard the arguments of Larry Myers and his fellow plaintiffs and agreed that the portion of the Indiana Product Liability Act that established a 10 Year Deadline for filing an injury claim against a negligent manufacturer would not apply to mesothelioma victims.
Why? The time deadline doesn’t jive with the realities of this disease, which is so sinister in its destruction. Mesothelioma victims may be exposed to asbestos and not present with symptoms of the disease for many, many years. It is not unusual for mesothelioma to be diagnosed as many as 20 or 30 years after the victim was exposed and injested or inhaled the asbestos while on the job, in school, or at home, or while using a product that was tainted with the toxin.
The Indiana Supreme Court ruled that applying this time deadline (called a “statute of repose”) on mesothelioma claims was unconstitutional. From the opinion (p.9-10):
Raymond Geyman had worked for an electric utility company as a powerhouse worker, laborer, and welder from 1955 to 1979, allegedly working with and around asbestos-containing components. He retired in 1979, was diagnosed with mesothelioma in March 2007, and died one year later. The Geymans filed their initial complaint in July 2007 and Mary Geyman now continues the litigation for herself and Raymond Geyman’s estate. Plaintiff Larry Myers worked as an electrician for forty years, from 1959 to 1999, and was exposed to asbestos fibers used, installed, or otherwise disturbed when he did his work. He was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma in March 2014 and filed his action the following month….
[T]he Indiana Product Liability Act’s statute of repose does not apply to cases such as these where the plaintiffs have had protracted exposure to inherently dangerous foreign substances.
Asbestos Exposure Continues to Happen: Illinois Contractor Charged June 2016
Think that asbestos is something from the past — a problem that doesn’t happen any longer because everyone is aware of its dangers? Not true.
Just last month, over in Illinois, a contractor was indicted by a federal grand jury on criminal charges over “illegally and unsafely removing asbestos” on a job he had been hired to do over in Springfield, and then lying about what happened during that demolition job when he was under oath in the courtroom. He’ll do time if convicted of these charges.
According to the federal prosecutors, as the manager of Midwest Demolition and Scrap Inc., Joe Chernis (Joseph Chernis IV) oversaw a project that involved tearing down structures at the old Pillsbury Mills / Cargill plant.
It’s alleged in the grand jury indictment that this manager went out and got someone that was not experienced in working with asbestos to take out asbestos insulation from these buildings. No surprise why: this inexperienced guy charged a lot less to do the job than a contractor with knowledge and expertise on the removal of asbestos from buildings.
This worker later became a confidential informant for the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. State officials began an investigation into what was going on at the old Pillsbury Mills factory and discovered, among other things, that the place was covered in asbestos-filled dust.
There’s also a civil case connected with this matter. Who knows how many people are going to perish as a result of exposure to asbestos in this situation — or when their mesothelioma diagnosis will arrive.
Asbestos exposure happens today. It causes mesothelioma, an incurable disease. Luckily for Hoosiers, there is a new ruling from the Indiana Supreme Court that opens the doors to justice for many mesothelioma victims and their families which had been barred in the past by a statute of limitations that did not take into consideration the long time gap between asbestos exposure and diagnosis in these cases. Let’s be careful out there!