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Conrail Loses Asbestos-Related Lung Cancer Case Against Ex-Smoker

The scientific community has determined that exposure to asbestos dramatically increases the risk that cigarette smokers will be diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, and the same is true of lung cancer. Yet despite incontrovertible evidence in support of this connection, Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail) argued in court against its responsibility for a longtime railroad worker’s diagnosis with lung cancer, claiming that his cigarette smoking was solely to blame for his illness despite his extensive exposure to asbestos on the job. Last week the Court of Appeals of Ohio ruled against Conrail’s appeal of a $2.3 million jury award to Kevin Howell, indicating that he had met the legal standard by presenting enough evidence to show that his exposure to asbestos was a substantial contributing factor to his cancer.

Railroad worker’s lung cancer blamed on both smoking and asbestos exposure

Malignant mesothelioma and lung cancer are both conditions that can arise following exposure to asbestosis, and many of those diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases were also lifelong smokers. In the case of Kevin Howell, his pack-a-day smoking habit began when he was 17 years old and did not stop  until February of 2018, three years after having been diagnosed with lung cancer and lung disease. Though lung cancer is primarily blamed on cigarette smoking, research has shown that exposure to asbestos not only increases the risk but also exacerbates it.

Appeals court upholds jury verdict based on evidence that exposure to asbestos contributed to lung cancer

Howell was a Conrail employee for 38 years, and spent many of those years working as a signal maintainer responsible for repairing and maintaining signals and signal boxes located alongside railroad tracks. Those boxes were constructed using asbestos, and he frequently had to drill holes in them, causing him to breathe in asbestos fibers. He was provided with no protection or warnings about the risks this posed. When he filed a lawsuit against Conrail under the Federal Employers Liability Act, a jury awarded him damages of over $4.5 million, but assessed 40% of the blame for his illness on him as a smoker. That meant that Conrail was to pay 60%: their assessment was amended by stipulation to $2.334,139.81. The company appealed based in large part on Howell having been a lifelong smoker, but the appeals court denied their appeal, ruling that Howell had presented evidence that both smoking and his frequent exposure to asbestos had contributed to his development of lung cancer.

Those who have been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma or lung cancer deserve the very best information, support and medical care available, regardless of whether they smoked cigarettes or not. If you would like to speak with one of the compassionate Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net about what happened to you, contact us today at 1-800-692-8608.


Terri Oppenheimer

Terri Oppenheimer is an experienced blog writer, editor, and proofreader. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. She specializes in providing content for websites and finds tremendous enjoyment in the things she learns while doing her research. Her specific areas of expertise include health, medical research, and law.

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