Previous generations exposed to asbestos were not aware of the substance’s many dangers, but those exposed to the carcinogen today are much more familiar with malignant mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. That familiarity, and the resulting anxiety upon learning of exposure, is at the heart of a lawsuit making its way through the court systems. Asbestos company Johnson Controls is trying to prevent a psychiatrist from providing testimony about the impact of those fears, but a judge has ruled against those efforts and will allow the expert witness to speak to the jury.
Fear of Mesothelioma Can Lead to Psychiatric Damage
The case being heard in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, South Bend Division centers on the plaintiffs’ exposure to asbestos and chlorinated chemicals, and psychiatrist Dr. Zachary Torry is set to testify on the psychological damage caused by fear of malignant mesothelioma. But attorneys for Johnson Controls moved to exclude the psychiatrist’s opinions.
The case against the asbestos company rests in part on what Dr. Torry calls “extreme emotional distress” over their alleged exposure, and the related fears about later being diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma. The company argued that the psychiatrist should not have assumed that they were in fact exposed, that his reports include underlying facts about the history of the site that he did not personally know, and that the methodology that he used did not support causation. In its decision, the court denied all of these arguments.
Psychiatrist Cites Plaintiffs’ Fears of Mesothelioma and Other Illnesses
In the reports that the psychiatrist prepared for the court, and on which he was prepared to testify, he describes fears of developing mesothelioma based on their past exposure to asbestos, writing, “[S]he has developed a pervasive ‘fear and panic’ that is centered on the potential for her and her family developing a fatal disease. [S]he carries an excessive amount of guilt and blames herself, as she believes that she ‘put their lives at risk. Moreover, the uncertainty of when, and how the risks will manifest in her or her children elevates her level of fear and worry to such an extent that she is overwhelmed by her helplessness and powerlessness to affect or control the situation.”
The court ruled that the psychiatrist had adequately met the criteria needed for an expert witness to testify in the case, and his testimony will be allowed.
If you or someone you love has been exposed to asbestos and you fear mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease, we have the information you need. Contact the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net today at 1-800-692-8608.