The United States has a long list of companies whose name quickly brings to mind the spectre of mesothelioma and asbestos-related cancers: the W.R. Grace Company tops the list, and there are dozens of others, including Johns Manville and United States Gypsum. In Australia, one of the most notorious of the asbestos companies is James Hardie, a manufacturer whose building materials was used in countless homes. A recent lawsuit against the company ended in a $3 million verdict in favor of a home renovator who was sickened by exposure to the company’s asbestos, and experts say that his case is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of compensation that other victims are expected to be awarded in the coming years.
Third wave victims exposed through handyman projects
The mesothelioma victim, Mathew Werfel, is part of what is known as the third wave of victims of asbestos exposure, with the first consisting of those who were exposed during the mining and manufacturing process and the second being tradesmen who used the asbestos-contaminated products. Third wave exposure comes from renovation products or some other type of exposure to asbestos that is already in place.
According to his mesothelioma lawsuit, Mr. Werfel’s exposure came twenty years ago when he was renovating two homes, pulling down fences and doing exterior paintwork that involved sanding down materials he had known contained asbestos. He breathed in the toxic dust, leading to his diagnosis with testicular mesothelioma. He is emphatic in his warning to others who might make the same fatal mistake that he did, saying, “Home renovators beware, because you just don’t know where it is. The difference between what you would consider to be gyprock or asbestos sheeting, you don’t know, you need it to be tested. That’s the only way to really know whether it contains asbestos or not.”
James Hardie blamed cancer on Werfel’s smoking
In defending itself against liability for Mr. Werfel’s mesothelioma, the company argued that there was insufficient evidence that asbestos causes testicular mesothelioma, which is one of the rarest forms of the disease. They also pointed to his smoking as the cause of his illness, but the company has long been aware of its culpability for illnesses, and financed the Asbestos Injuries Compensation Foundation after pressure from other mesothelioma victims. Accounting firm KPMG has indicated that the company will likely have liabilities of over $1.8 billion, with many of them coming from home renovators.
In the United States, contractors and professional renovators are trained to identify asbestos and take appropriate steps to protect against exposure for themselves and those in the immediate vicinity, but do-it-yourselfers may find themselves at the same risk as Mr. Werfel. If you have been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma and you need assistance in identifying its source, the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net can help. Call us today at 1-800-692-8608.