California ranks No. 1 in the U.S. for mesothelioma and asbestosis deaths. Federal and state laws regulate the use and abatement of asbestos in California.
Over the past few decades, California lawmakers responded to occupational and environmental asbestos risks with a number of laws, regulations, safety standards and programs aimed at reducing exposure.
Included in the regulations were new certification requirements for contractors and consultants who handle and remove asbestos in the state. California also added laws to combat a climbing number of asbestos-related legal claims.
A mix of federal and state laws regulates asbestos in California.
Federal regulations govern the bulk of laws that protect people in every state such as the Clean Air Act and the Toxic Substances Control Act. State laws involving asbestos in California regulate the mineral’s use in construction and set limitations on asbestos lawsuits.
California is home to some of the nation’s largest asbestos deposits. The Clear Creek Management Area (CCMA), located in San Benito and Fresno counties, contains the country’s largest asbestos deposit. The Atlas asbestos mine once operated within the area. In 2008, parts of the CCMA were closed to protect people using off-road vehicles.
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As national awareness about asbestos and its hazards grew and lawmakers enacted tougher regulations of the mineral, California concentrated its efforts on limiting exposure among people who work around asbestos. Most of these regulations are found in Title 8 of the California Code of Regulations.
For example, Title 8 mandated employers take specific steps to ensure proper air quality and that they document all levels of potential exposure. Title 8 also governs registration and certification of asbestos contractors and consultants. It also regulates certification of asbestos training providers to ensure consistency and safety.
Anyone who needs to remove asbestos from a building in California should contact a Cal/OSHA-Certified Asbestos Consultant. These consultants are the only professionals in the state who are qualified to provide asbestos abatement consulting.
California school districts and institutions of higher learning also adopted asbestos regulations. State colleges and universities, acting independently, pushed through their own standards of abatement and exposure under state law.
For example, the University of California Santa Cruz in 2001 agreed to keep asbestos-related records — exposure records, respiratory fit testing records, abatement records — for 30 years. It also set forth training for abatement and set certification standards.
In addition to implementing asbestos safety measures, California has long been one of the leading jurisdictions for asbestos lawsuit filings. Early asbestos lawsuits were generally filed in areas, including California, where significant numbers of workers had been exposed to asbestos.
In the 1970s and 1980s, California was one of four states that accounted for more than 60 percent of state asbestos case filings. By 2000, the majority of asbestos filings occurred in a handful of other states such as Texas.
Not all of these new case filings resulted in verdicts (e.g., they were dismissed or settled). However, from 1993 through 2001, California was among five states that accounted for 65 percent of asbestos trials that ended in verdicts.
Since 2000, some states with a significant amount of asbestos lawsuits began enacting laws to limit new filings. California has not enacted similar laws. Meanwhile, some of the state’s courts have reportedly experienced increases in the number of asbestos case filings by both in-state and out-of-state claimants each year.
Although California has not enacted some of the reform laws that have been popular in other states, its courts have taken other measures to manage large asbestos caseloads and expedite claims by extremely ill patients.
For example, a “fast-track” scheduling approach allows cases of terminally ill patients, such as those with malignant mesothelioma, to go to trial in 120 days. In addition, at least some judges actively encourage the parties to resolve cases quickly through trial or settlement.
Every state has a statute of limitations that regulates how long a person has to file a personal injury lawsuit or a wrongful death lawsuit. In California, asbestos victims have two years to file a lawsuit.
In 2012, the Los Angeles Superior Court awarded $48 million to the family of Bobbie Izell. Izell developed mesothelioma as a result of exposure to asbestos working as a contractor. Major defendants in the lawsuit included Union Carbide, Riverside Cement and CalPortland.
In 2010, a Los Angeles jury awarded $208 million to Rhoda Evans. Evans developed mesothelioma as a result of secondary exposure through her husband, who worked with asbestos cement pipe manufactured by CertainTeed Corporation.
In 2002, a California jury awarded $33 million to Alfred Todak, who developed mesothelioma working with asbestos in shipyards. Todak worked with boilers containing asbestos manufactured by Foster Wheeler.
If you are suffering from an asbestos-related illness, it is best to speak with a qualified mesothelioma attorney as soon as possible. An attorney can help you file a claim for compensation for your injuries in California or another state, as appropriate.
If you need help finding a lawyer, our team of Patient Advocates is available to help you.
Keep in mind that California and other states limit the amount of time you have to file your case. Because the life expectancy of many mesothelioma sufferers is so short, time is important.
Joe Lahav is a lawyer and legal advisor at The Mesothelioma Center. He graduated with honors from the University of Florida College of Law in 2000, and he's licensed to practice in Washington, D.C., and Florida. Joe lost his mother to cancer, and he understands the emotional toll mesothelioma can have on families. Read More
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