Understanding, Managing, and Living with the

Health Effects of Asbestos

Asbestosis Lawsuits Complicated for Plaintiffs

February 28, 2014

New York, NY One of the more controversial areas of litigation is that of the asbestos lawsuit, alleging people were put at a higher risk of asbestosis disease because of exposure to asbestos. Critics argue that plaintiffs in asbestosis claims are encouraged by lawyers to go after too many defendants to increase the chances they will win their lawsuit. Whether the argument is correct or not, what is often lost in the debate is the devastating effect of asbestos exposure on people who become sick from it.

One of the reasons lawsuits can be filed in asbestos exposure cases is that some companies have been found to have negligently exposed their employees to asbestos and its life-threatening risks, including asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer. Plaintiffs claim their employers did not warn them about the risks of asbestos exposure and failed to provide proper protective gear to lessen the risks.

According to reports in March 2013, a New York state jury awarded Ivo “John” Peraica, an asbestos remover, $35 million after he alleged Crane Co. and others did not warn him about the risks associated with asbestos. Unfortunately, Peraica died just as the trial was beginning.

The jury found Crane 15 percent liable for Peraica’s health problems, splitting remaining liability among other companies, although those companies were no longer part of the lawsuit.

One of the reasons there can be numerous defendants in an asbestos lawsuit is that over the course of a career, people who work with asbestos may have been exposed to it from a variety of sources. In Peraica’s case, he worked from 1978 on at a variety of sites, removing asbestos from machinery. With so much exposure to asbestos, it is difficult to pinpoint one company as being ultimately responsible for the asbestos exposure.

Furthermore, asbestos may be in component parts of machinery that employees are working with and those component parts may have a different manufacturer than the overall machinery, which may be made by a different company than the one the employee works for.

Peracia was diagnosed with asbestos in 2001. He was later diagnosed with mesothelioma. Crane has said it intends to appeal the decision. The lawsuit is Peraica v. A.O. Smith Water Products, case number 190339/2011, in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of New York.

Meanwhile, an asbestosis lawsuit in Delaware has been given new life after the Delaware Supreme Court overturned a lower court decision granting summary judgment in favor of the defendants. In that case, the defendants had argued that because the plaintiff, Paul DaBaldo, Jr., knew in 1992 he had lung disease, the statute of limitations for him to file his lawsuit would have run out in 1994. According to Legal Newsline (2/12/14), however, the plaintiff only knew he had pleural lung disease at the time. He argued that he did not know he had asbestosis until 2007, meaning the statute of limitations did not run out until 2009, when his lawsuit was filed.

Although the Superior Court agreed with the defendants and granted summary judgment, the Delaware Supreme Court sided with the plaintiff and restored the lawsuit.