For the family of Nancy Lopez, the value of her death because of mesothelioma cancer ended up higher than that of any other mesothelioma patient in Missouri. The cost: $10 million.
Lopez worked at the Jackson County (Missouri) Courthouse. She said she contracted the mesothelioma from asbestos exposure after the toxic mineral was improperly removed from the courthouse, and she died of the disease in 2010.
Mesothelioma is a rare cancer of the lining of the lungs that affects between 2,000 and 3,000 people per year. Asbestos exposure is the only known cause of this cancer.
Lopez’s family pursued a lawsuit against U.S. Engineering, the company that performed the asbestos abatement and renovation for the courthouse. Additionally, the Jackson County Courthouse was listed in the settlement and will pay the family $400,000 for its role in Lopez’s death.
The $10 million settlement is the largest in Missouri’s history for an asbestos case.
Court documents show Lopez worked at the courthouse for 27 years. Between 1983 and 2007, she inhaled and ingested asbestos dust during various repairs to the building.
According to court filings, liability and negligence rests on U.S. Engineering and the courthouse because “inhalation, ingestion, and/or absorption of said asbestos fibers was completely foreseeable and could or should have been anticipated by Defendants.”
Asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma can take between 20 and 50 years after the time of exposure to develop but will become aggressive once it forms. Recent research shows that certain genetic components may cause certain people to be more susceptible of developing this cancer than others.
Because of this long latency period, finding the corporate culprits that are responsible for your asbestos exposure may be very difficult. As asbestos was widely used for decades in countless industries, it is possible that exposure occurred in multiple occupational settings.
In the case of Lopez, the source of her exposure was apparent based on her long employment at the courthouse and therefore the litigation process for her case was a little more simplified.
Widespread Asbestos Litigation
In addition to Lopez’s settlement, other employees of the Jackson County Courthouse are currently involved in a class action lawsuit against the county. This case is still pending but is representative of a bigger trend that has been occurring for decades.
Asbestos litigation has been prevalent in many courts since the 1970s, when widespread research confirmed a link between asbestos exposure and mesothelioma and other diseases.
Because of the negligence, reckless disregard or lack of awareness on the part of asbestos manufacturers and distributors, thousands of people have died from mesothelioma and related diseases.
During an asbestos lawsuit, it is common for a settlement to be reached instead of going to trial because of the benefits that a settlement provides for all parties involved.
It is important to remember that despite the large settlement reward that the Lopez family received, a life was lost because of exposure to a dangerous material. As no cure for mesothelioma exists, avoiding asbestos exposure becomes the best method for preventing the cancer.