Mesothelioma Lawsuit Timeline

1917—Dr. Henry K. Pancoast of University of Pennsylvania medical school finds lung scarring in X-rays of asbestos-factory workers.

1924—Dr. W.E. Cooke publishes article in British Medical Journal describing the death of a person who had been exposed to asbestos.

1927—First workmen’s compensation disability claim for asbestosis upheld by Massachusetts Industrial Accident Board.

1930Dr. Edward Merewether publishes first clinical examination of hundreds of workers in England’s asbestos industry. He found that one out of four was suffering from asbestosis. He further concluded that (1) workers who suffered asbestos exposure would not show signs of injury for many years; (2) workers exposed to asbestos should be informed and warned in order to give them a “sane appreciation of the risk”; and (3) even finished products created dust that had to be controlled and minimized.

1930sReports demonstrate that asbestosis was occurring in workers with as little as nine months of exposure.

1933—First American case report of asbestosis in an insulation worker.

1934—Researchers report cases of asbestosis and lung cancer among asbestos factory workers, boiler workers, custodians and insulators. Many of them had less than six months of exposure to asbestos.

1940 to 1979—Approximately 27.5 million Americans are exposed to asbestos.

1943—First case of a mesothelioma-like tumor reported.

1949—Encyclopedia Brittanica lists asbestos as a cause of occupational and environmental cancer. The Journal of the American Medical Association concurs.

1955—A major study demonstrates that asbestos workers are 10 times as likely as the general population to contract lung cancer.

1960—Study confirms reports that asbestos exposure causes mesothelioma; it includes children and wives of asbestos workers who contracted mesothelioma.

1969—An asbestos lawsuit is filed and is decided in favor of the plaintiff and upheld in subsequent appeals courts. It was a landmark case, the first in the nation that recognized a manufacturer’s duty to warn about the dangers of asbestos. Within 10 years, more than 16,000 asbestos and mesothelioma cases would be filed in American courts.

1982—Flooded by mesothelioma lawsuits, Johns-Manville, the leading U.S. asbestos producer, files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Over the next two decades, more than 70 other companies follow suit.

1989—U.S. Environmental Protection Agency bans most asbestos-containing products. The industry challenges the ban, and it is partially overturned.

1991—Symposium entitled “The Third Wave of Asbestos Disease” is held. It shows conclusively that asbestos already in place in buildings across the U.S. poses a major public health hazard.

1994—Congress amends the U.S. Bankruptcy Code to allow companies in asbestos-related bankruptcies to create special trust funds to pay future claimants. The change helps companies rid themselves of asbestos liability but also makes it easier for plaintiff mesothelioma lawyers to win settlements for many cases.

2002—RAND Institute for Civil Justice estimates number of asbestos lawsuits at 600,000. Estimates of total liability range from $200–250 billion.

2006—U.S. Senate defeats a bill that would have created a $140 billion trust fund to compensate victims of asbestos diseases like mesothelioma. Opponents of the bill say it didn’t fairly compensate victims, instead favoring the interests of large corporations.

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