Though the most common way that malignant mesothelioma victims have been exposed to asbestos is generally occupational exposure, there are many other ways. One that no longer exists but which provides an excellent example of a corporation ignoring its own knowledge of asbestos’ dangers involves the manufacturer of Kent cigarettes, which were manufactured using filters containing crocidolite asbestos. The cigarette company’s advertising actually promoted the use of asbestos as providing greater safety for smokers, and this has been the subject of numerous lawsuits, including one recently filed in the Supreme Court of New York County. Though R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company and Hollingsworth & Vose (the company that provided the asbestos filters) have argued that they should not be held responsible for any illnesses caused by asbestos in their products, those who are pursuing legal claims against them have submitted significant evidence proving that they did in fact know that asbestos caused serious illnesses.
The recent case was filed by Lois Prokocimer, who was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma. In her lawsuit she claims that she developed the disease as a result of smoking Kent cigarettes in the 1950s, pointing out that from March 1952 until May of 1956 or 1957 the cigarettes were made using asbestos filters. The companies both moved for summary judgment against her claims, stating that there was no general recognition of asbestos’ dangers prior to the 1960s, but the woman’s mesothelioma attorneys were able to submit 161 exhibits showing that the defendants either knew or should have known that asbestos was a harmful carcinogen, including warnings from experts as early as 1952. Despite this knowledge, the company continued to advertise that the asbestos Micronite filter on their cigarette made it safe, and that it offered the greatest health protection available.
In determining that summary judgment was not appropriate, Judge Manuel J. Mendez also noted that it was appropriate for Ms. Prokocimer to seek punitive damages in the case, saying, “Plaintiff has presented sufficient evidence from which a jury can conclude that defendants had knowledge, from at least 1952, of the hazards of exposure to asbestos from smoking their asbestos-containing Micronite filter cigarette, that defendants knew that there was asbestos in the smoke from their cigarette and that this asbestos posed a health risk to the end user. A jury presented with these facts could very well find defendants to be wanton and reckless entitling the plaintiff to an award for punitive damages.”
Mesothelioma is a risk to anybody who has been exposed to asbestos, no matter how the exposure took place. If you have been diagnosed with this terrible disease and you need information about the resources and rights available to you, contact the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net at 1-800-692-8608.