The Long & Continuing Story of Asbestos Lawsuits
Anna Pirskowski is considered to be the first individual to file an asbestos-related lawsuit in the United States. She brought the 1929 suit against her employer, the Johns-Manville Corporation, in federal court in Newark, N.J.
When someone is exposed to asbestos, they chance inhaling the fibers, which cause internal damage and can lead to mesothelioma. Fibers can also be transported home on clothing, endangering an employee’s family members as well.
Pirskowski’s asbestos suit was ultimately unsuccessful, but it was a precursor of what was to come. By the late 1960s — with the public increasingly aware of the associated health risks — asbestos-related claims surged. This trend continued into the 1970s and 1980s.
Johns-Manville Corporation, the employer that originally dodged Pirskowski’s suit, was one of the largest companies involved in these asbestos related lawsuits. Due to the high number of claims the company had to settle, the business filed for bankruptcy in 1982. Some years later, it set up a trust devoted to paying future asbestos-related claims. The company has paid out hundreds of millions of dollars in asbestos-related damages, and continues to pay them still.
Johns-Manville, of course, was not alone. It was just the biggest and most vivid example. A number of corporations have been targeted with asbestos-related lawsuits. There are currently more than 60 asbestos-related trust funds set up by corporations that have gone bankrupt due to the legal actions brought by asbestos victims.
The correlation between asbestos exposure and mesothelioma, while established previously, was not widely known until the 1960s. The U.S. government did not begin regulating the use and handling of asbestos until the 1970s. Additionally, symptoms associated with asbestos-related illnesses, such as mesothelioma, take up to 40 years to reveal themselves. These factors indicate that doctors and courts will be seeing asbestos-related cases for the foreseeable future.