New York City Mesothelioma Attorney
Mesothelioma is an aggressive and deadly form of cancer that is caused by exposure to asbestos.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, a New York City mesothelioma attorney at Meirowitz & Wasserberg, LLP can help. There is a high chance you could be eligible for a financial award from asbestos exposure, even if it occurred decades ago. Protect your legal rights during a free consultation with our firm.
Mesothelioma Lawsuits in New York City
Mesothelioma claims in New York are unique compared to other personal injury lawsuits. Aside from settlement and jury award compensation types, mesothelioma sufferers could also be eligible for compensation through asbestos bankruptcy trust funds, which exist with the sole purpose of reimbursing victims of asbestos exposure even when the company at fault has gone out of business or declared bankruptcy. Since mesothelioma can take decades after initial exposure to appear, bankrupt or dissolved companies are common problems in these lawsuits. The asbestos trusts provide enough funding to pay out mesothelioma claims even if the company no longer exists or cannot afford to pay.
Veterans with mesothelioma may also receive special compensation awards. Veterans who worked on or built naval vessels and warships could be eligible for asbestos-related disability benefits through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The VA outlines certain criteria mesothelioma sufferers must meet to qualify for this type of ongoing compensation.
Mesothelioma lawsuits more often than not lead to significant financial recovery for damages. People with mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure – or surviving family members of the deceased – are eligible to file claims against one or more parties for the harm. Compensation may be possible even if the company or original manufacturer has long since closed down or gone bankrupt. There are asbestos victims’ trust funds in place to compensate individuals with mesothelioma in these cases.
It typically takes 10 to 50 years after exposure to asbestos for mesothelioma to form. The state of New York only allows three years from the date of diagnosis to file a personal injury claim. If your loved one passed away from mesothelioma, you only have two years from the date of death to bring a wrongful death claim. Missing the statute of limitations can mean the courts will not hear your case. However, the courts may allow an exception to the deadline in certain scenarios. It is important to speak to a qualified New York City personal injury attorney as soon as possible after a mesothelioma diagnosis to improve your chances of a successful lawsuit.
Asbestos Exposure in New York
In the early 1900s, many industries used asbestos in construction materials and the substance was especially common in New York City. It wasn’t until the 1970s, when hundreds of thousands of people had already been exposed to asbestos, that the United States banned this substance. Despite the limited use of asbestos in current manufacturing materials, it may still exist in many older buildings and operations.
New York is one of the top states for asbestos exposure incidents and mesothelioma diagnoses. According to the CDC, there were 3,267 incidents of mesothelioma cancer in New York State between 1999 and 2014. During that time, 2,221 people in state died from mesothelioma complications. In the New York metropolitan statistical area, an MSA that includes Newark and New Jersey, 2,154 people died during the same time frame.
Mesothelioma Deaths: New York State and New York City
In New York state, more than 75 percent (1,674) of mesothelioma related deaths were Caucasian men. However, mesothelioma cases have been seen in both men and women of all ethnicities.
Why is New York such a deadly place in terms of asbestos exposure? The answer could be in the most prominent industries in the state during the 1900s: steel manufacturing, engine manufacturing, paper production, mining, and ship production. Some of the largest companies operating in New York at the time were the Lackawanna Steel Company, General Motors, Bethlehem, and the Brooklyn Navy Yard. These high-risk companies employed hundreds of thousands of people who could have suffered exposure during the height of asbestos-filled products.
What Are the Risk Factors for Mesothelioma?
About 3,000 new mesothelioma diagnoses occur every year. Depending on the location of the cancer, it can cause difficulty breathing, low oxygen levels, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, bowel obstruction, heart palpitations, coughing, or chest pain. The average life expectancy upon diagnosis is six to eighteen months. Asbestos exposure is the only known cause of mesothelioma.
Those at greatest risk for dangerous asbestos exposure and the development of mesothelioma are workers who interacted with materials containing asbestos in the 1900s. These products might include drywall, insulation, shipbuilding materials, and auto repair and manufacturing materials. Occupational exposure is the most common reason behind mesothelioma cases. Those working in industrial settings and shipyards at most at risk.
Secondhand exposure to asbestos can occur when those who work with the material carry microscopic particles of asbestos with them on their clothes, hair, and bodies. Natural exposure is also a risk for those who lived near asbestos mines or large deposits. Aside from occupational exposure risks, people who lived in certain areas of New York might have a greater chance of developing asbestos-related conditions than others.
Data from the New York State Department of Health from the 2012-2014 cancer registry shows that those living in the New York City region are at the highest risk, with 178 reported cancer cases total. Queens had the highest number, with 60 cancer cases, a rate of one case per 100,000 people. The second-most dangerous region for mesothelioma in New York is Long Island, with 99 total cases, followed by Western New York with 92 and Mid-Hudson with 77.
Where someone lived prior to the ban of asbestos could make a difference in whether that person will get mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is more common in men than women and is rare for people under the age of 45. About 75% of mesothelioma victims are over the age of 65. White and Hispanic people report higher rates of mesothelioma than black or Asian people.
On top of prolonged exposure to asbestos, scientists are studying the idea of whether a simian virus 40 infection could increase the risk. Studies have linked this virus to cancer. While the risk of asbestos exposure was much higher in the past and it may be too late for hundreds of thousands of people to avoid mesothelioma, today’s New Yorkers can protect themselves by following workplace health and safety rules.
Asbestos Investigations in NYC
New York City has made headlines for years as the “birthplace of the asbestos industry.” To this day, workplaces and public buildings in NYC could still be putting the health and safety of occupants at risk due to asbestos. The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) hosts an ongoing Asbestos Abatement Project that serves to seek out and remedy asbestos issues within NYC.
The DEP holds that owners of all buildings are responsible for determining the amount of risk construction activities will have on workers in terms of asbestos exposure. If a job will disturb more than 10 square feet or 25 linear feet of material that contains asbestos, the building owner must comply with asbestos abatement activities. Failure to comply with asbestos abatement rules could result in a lawsuit against the property owner for negligence. People with mesothelioma may be able to hold property owners liable for damages.
The DEP conducts investigations into buildings to determine whether there is a risk of asbestos exposure. The NYC DEP employs more than 300 asbestos investigators each year to investigate potential cases. Certified asbestos investigators, remediation contractors, and air monitoring firms all work together to find the underlying cause of the asbestos problem in NYC. Air monitoring in lower Manhattan, for example, after the collapse of the World Trade Center has found traces of asbestos particles in the air from debris.
If you lived or worked in a location where the DEP has found traces of asbestos, including the area affected in 9/11, you could potentially use the results of an investigation as evidence in a mesothelioma lawsuit.
Did You or Do You Work in a High-Risk Occupation for Mesothelioma in NYC?
As stated above, occupational exposure is the number one most common cause of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related harms, including lung cancer and colon cancer. For years, the shipyards in New York were infamous for asbestos contamination. If you worked in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, for instance, you were at one of the highest-risk job sites in the state for asbestos exposure.
The Brooklyn Navy Yard built coal and oil barges and repaired ships during World War II, using tons of building materials that most likely contained asbestos. Today, thousands of workers have filed lawsuits against this shipyard. Other common jobs in NYC that could come with asbestos risks (in the past and today) include:
- Construction workers
- Carpenters and engineers
- Industrial employees
- Auto and aircraft mechanics
- First responders/firefighters
- School teachers
- Welders and sheet metal workers
Your workplace has certain responsibilities to protect you from asbestos exposure. Federal and New York State laws require employers to adhere to health and safety standards to reduce the risk of asbestos-related injuries and illnesses. These include providing personal asbestos exposure monitoring, assessing risks of exposure, and providing hazard awareness training if there is any risk of exposure.
Levels of asbestos in the air at work should never exceed worker exposure limits, although there is no safe level of exposure. Employers must also comply with the DEP reporting requirements for projects. If an employer fails to protect workers from asbestos exposure, it could be liable for workers’ subsequent health complications and damages.
Asbestos in Your Apartment – Who Is Liable?
Occupational exposure isn’t the only way New Yorkers could end up with malignant mesothelioma. Due to traces of asbestos in older building materials, many of New York’s historic apartment complexes and homes could contain this harmful substance. Asbestos can lie deep within the fibers of an apartment complex, causing no harm to residents – until a construction project stirs up pulverized asbestos and launches it into the air.
Laws are in place to protect residents from unsafe exposure to asbestos in apartment complexes. Residential landlords have a legal obligation to warn tenants of the presence of asbestos in a building. They must also reduce the hazards of asbestos by hiring investigators to find out if asbestos exists within the walls prior to starting construction projects. Residential landlords do not, however, have to remove asbestos from a property.
As an apartment tenant in New York, you might be able to hold a residential landlord liable for asbestos-related harm if he or she failed to disclose the presence of asbestos to tenants. If, for example, the landlord never tested for asbestos or did not assume a building erected prior to 1981 contained asbestos, tenants could have negligence-based claims against the owner. You may need a lawyer to help you prove that the landlord never took proper steps to warn tenants of asbestos exposure risks.
Can I Bring a Mesothelioma Claim If I Was/Am a Smoker?
Yes. Although smoking cigarettes and using other tobacco products can increase the risk of respiratory diseases and exacerbate the symptoms of mesothelioma, it does not bar a patient from seeking damages with a mesothelioma lawsuit. Scientists have not found a link between smoking and developing mesothelioma. If you have mesothelioma, it is a result of asbestos exposure – not from smoking.
However, there is a possibility of a defendant alleging contributory negligence if a patient is seeking recovery for asbestos-related damages. A possible defense could be that the plaintiff’s pain and suffering or lost quality of life would not have been as severe had the plaintiff not been a smoker. It will be up to the jury to decide if a plaintiff’s comparative fault will reduce his or her non-economic damage recovery. A good attorney can help prove the other party’s fault in mesothelioma claims involving smokers.
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with mesothelioma in New York City, contact Meirowitz & Wasserberg, LLP for a free consultation. Our New York City mesothelioma attorneys may be able to help you win significant compensation for your illness-related damages. You may be eligible to join an ongoing action and receive compensation for medical bills, funeral and burial expenses, pain and suffering, and other related damages. Defendants might include the material manufacturer or the premises owner responsible for exposing workers to asbestos.