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Maine’s history of shipping, shipbuilding, and other maritime industries has helped the state’s economy thrive over hundreds of years. Unfortunately, this industry was also responsible for hundreds of deaths related to asbestos exposure. Between 1999 and 2013, 433 people in Maine died from mesothelioma, lung cancer, or asbestosis. These illnesses were largely due to extensive use of asbestos in shipping and other industries.
However, Maine residents are not taking this without a fight. Instead, they are hiring Maine mesothelioma lawyers and legal teams to help them fight back against companies that exposed them to asbestos without adequate warnings and protection, often without their knowledge. These legal professionals help Mainers access asbestos trust funds and win legal settlements for justice and compensation.
Sources of Asbestos in Maine
Asbestos is a natural mineral that was used throughout the world for centuries. Asbestos has several unique qualities that made it useful for many industrial applications. It is abundant, inexpensive, resists heat and fire, and strengthens other materials without adding excessive weight. Since asbestos fibers can cause deadly illnesses like mesothelioma and lung cancer, the use of asbestos has decreased, but not entirely disappeared.
Several sources of asbestos in Maine have continue to pose a risk to residents. One source is natural deposits of asbestos. While Maine never had an operating asbestos mine, there are several sites with natural asbestos in the ground. Residents in these areas can be exposed to asbestos, especially when the earth is disturbed for construction projects. Much of this natural asbestos is near the Canadian border, close to asbestos mines in Quebec.
However, the most common source of asbestos exposure for Mainers is not natural deposits, but workplaces. Several industries have used and still use asbestos. These industries include chemical production, paper mills, power plants, and workers in these facilities are at risk of harmful exposure. Older buildings are another significant danger. Most buildings built before the 1970s contain asbestos in siding, roofing, flooring, insulation, and other materials. If those materials deteriorate or become damaged, anyone nearby may be exposed and harmed. Risks are elevated during renovation and demolition projects.
Shipbuilding, Ports, and Shipyards
Workplaces are the major source of asbestos exposure in the Pine Tree State. The maritime industry commonly used asbestos, making it responsible for the most exposure. Maine’s long, rugged coastline has kept it in the forefront of shipping and shipbuilding for centuries. Shipbuilding has used more asbestos than any other industry. Therefore, anyone who has worked on or near boats in Maine is likely to have been exposed to asbestos.
Maine’s extensive forests mean a large timber and paper industry. Although more numerous in the past, there are still many paper mills located throughout the state. Paper mills exposed workers to asbestos for decades, resulting in many illnesses. Abandoned mills, which often contain large mounts of asbestos, are still problematic. The former Lincoln Paper and Tissue facility in Lincoln, Maine will cost at least $16 million to clean up.
Known Sites of Asbestos Exposure in Maine
Shipbuilding is one of Maine’s largest industries and has been one of the biggest sources of asbestos exposure in the state. Many other industries, workplaces, military sites, and public buildings have also contributed to the asbestos-related death toll. Here are just a few Maine locations known to have posed an asbestos risk:
- Brunswick Naval Air Station, Brunswick
- Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Kittery
- Oxford Paper Company, Rumford
- Rumford Paper Mill, Rumford Falls
- Great Northern Paper Company, Lincoln
- New England Shipbuilding Corporation, Portland
- Central Main Power Plant, Lewiston
- Union Chemicals Company, South Hope
- Boardman Hall, University of Maine
- Bowdoin College
- Todd Shipyard, Portland
- International Paper Company, Livermore
- Bath Iron Works, Bath
Getting Medical Care in Maine
If you have been exposed to asbestos, or you are sick and suspect you were exposed, you need to get the best medical care. Although mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer, it is very aggressive. The best care comes from experts in mesothelioma and asbestos illnesses. The National Cancer Institute has designated the Maine Medical Care Institute as a center of excellence. This facility is home to the best medical team and mesothelioma resources the state has to offer.
Maine Asbestos Laws
The Maine Department of Environmental Protection oversees asbestos related laws in the state. Rules require training and licensing for professionals working on asbestos abatement projects. Legal asbestos disposal is crucial. Contaminated refuse must go to designated asbestos disposal sites. Federal laws regarding asbestos also apply in Maine.
Maine’s Historic Asbestos Lawsuit
The first asbestos lawsuits in Maine occurred in 1981. Blaine Austin, who worked at Bath Iron Works, died of mesothelioma in 1977. His wife filed a wrongful death suit against several manufacturers of products he used at work. Several of these companies settled out of court. However, Raybestos and Unarco went all the way to trial. The jury found both guilty of negligence, but also found Austin guilty for not wearing a respirator on the job. Because of this, his widow did not recover damages. In 1983, a Court of Appeals ordered a retrial. She eventually received over $300,000.
Statute of Limitations
Making a case against a company you believe was negligent in your asbestos exposure and resulting illness is important to receive both justice and compensation. However, there are limits to when you can file. In Maine, the statute of limitations is generous, giving you six years from the time of diagnosis to file a lawsuit. On the other hand, statute of limitations for a wrongful death case is only two years.
Finding and Working with a Maine Mesothelioma Lawyer
The statute of limitations is just one reason working with a Maine mesothelioma lawyer is important for making a strong case. There are many other legal details that can be confusing. A mesothelioma lawyer knows the laws inside and out and understands exactly how to file the lawsuit. He or she can help gather and present evidence to make the best possible case for compensation. Your lawyer is also your advocate in settlement discussions, as most cases do not actually go to trial. Instead of going it alone, use a professional and experienced legal team to help you get the justice and damages you deserve.
Page Written by Rod De Llano, Esquire
Rod De Llano was born and raised in Laredo, Texas. He graduated from Princeton University with a B.A. in Economics, and earned a law degree from the University of Texas. After working for an international law firm for several years, Rod formed a law firm dedicated to representing persons injured by exposure to asbestos products. For over 20 years, Rod has fought for persons diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis. His clients have recovered over $1 billion over the years.