Understanding, Managing, and Living with the

Health Effects of Asbestos

Employees Litigating Over Alleged Asbestosis Lung Cancer Link to Nassau Coliseum

April 30, 2013

New York, NY Things are heating up for the owners and operators of the famed Nassau Coliseum, current home of the New York Islanders hockey franchise and numerous other sporting events. What’s causing all the heat is asbestosis, with many an asbestosis lawsuit representing several plaintiffs coming into the pipeline.

One widow has filed a wrongful death lawsuit. Another plaintiff, who now requires a constant intake of oxygen, is worried about his son - also a contractor at the Nassau Coliseum. His son is being treated for an undisclosed lung ailment. His father fears the worst.

Those filing an asbestosis claim against various defendants allege the owners and operators of the venerable facility knew of the presence of asbestos in the building, and the dangers asbestos posed, but made little effort to inform or protect workers performing various renovation or installation tasks at the facility.

Testing for asbestosis exposure has never revealed the presence of asbestos in any area of the building frequented by the public. The concern, according to reports, lay within the bowels of the building not frequented by patrons but nonetheless accessible to employees, contractors, installers and other workers.

According to Newsday (3/25/13), a plaintiff in an asbestosis lung cancer lawsuit collected samples from 10 different locations in the building, sending them to labs for analysis. Having been diagnosed with early-stage asbestosis, 53-year-old Robert Wass wanted to know if it was the building that was making him ill with asbestos pleural plaques.

Of the 10 samples, seven came back testing positive for asbestos. A subsequent inspection conducted by consultants hired by Nassau County found asbestos in stairwells, a tunnel below the exhibition hall and in an ice plant. Although reports indicate asbestos was removed from those affected areas, Wass maintains only a fraction of the asbestos was removed from the building.

It should be noted that until recently, it was felt the only way to safeguard against asbestos exposure was to have asbestos removed. In later years, however, thinking has shifted toward complete removal of asbestos only if it is in danger of being disturbed. To that end, it is felt that so long as asbestos remains hidden and undisturbed, it does not constitute a threat.

Be that as it may, Newsday reports that the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued no fewer than 16 workplace violations against SMG, the operator of the facility. The citations, issued in October 2012, and described as “serious,” cited the failure to eradicate asbestos in multiple areas of the building. SMG was fined $88,000 by OSHA and $13,000 by the state Department of Labor. SMG is in the throes of contesting those fines.

Meanwhile, the asbestosis cancer lawsuits continue to grow. Plaintiff Eileen Connolly filed a $20 million wrongful death asbestos lawsuit on behalf of her late husband John. The latter worked for SMG from 1972 to 1998. He died of asbestosis lung cancer in November 2010.

Charles Conforti Sr. was employed by SMG at the facility from 1975 through 2005, and claims to have been regularly exposed to asbestos while performing his duties. He was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2009. “I am existing but I am not living,” Conforti, who carries an oxygen tank wherever he goes, said in comments published in Newsday. Charles Conforti Jr. also works at the Nassau Coliseum, and is undergoing treatment for an undisclosed lung ailment.

In total, 140 individuals have filed notices of claim against 21 defendants and seek $500 million to $1 billion in total damages. An asbestosis attorney familiar with the case expects all lawsuits to have been filed by summer, and expects consolidation as a class action.

SMG is the facility manager for the Nassau Coliseum. Plaintiffs seeking asbestosis compensation allege SMG and various other defendants failed to protect them from the carcinogen while performing their various duties in the building. Asbestosis is a disease of the lung that is associated with exposure to asbestos fibers. However, emergence of asbestosis symptoms can take years following exposure.

There is no cure for asbestosis disease. In effect, it is a death sentence. For those afflicted, it’s usually just a matter of time…