One of the most notorious defective products of all time has been asbestos. It is a naturally occurring mineral that is mined from the earth in rock formations composed of long thin fibrous crystals. When the fibers are released, they are carried into the air and ingested by humans, and end up residing in the human lungs. There they can cause fatal consequences, including the diseases of asbestosis, mesothelioma and even lung cancer. Litigation in West Virginia and nationwide attacking asbestos as a defective product has been widespread during the 70s, 80s and 90s and continues to the present day.
The plaintiffs in asbestos cases are most often workers who unwittingly inhaled the fibers for extended periods while installing asbestos-laden building materials. When asbestos is contained in insulation products in buildings, the fibers can be released into the air by vibrations, handling and other disturbances. It’s also common to find asbestos mixed with cement to form a substance resistant to fire and heat, as in a concrete pipe used for electrical insulation.
In one case in Louisiana, the surviving family of a woman is suing several companies for allegedly causing her death from mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure. The lawsuit alleges that the decedent lived in a neighborhood where asbestos ground fill materials were used from 1950 through 1961 by defendant companies for constructing driveways near her home. The defendants crushed concrete pipe containing asbestos and used it to fill in the driveways. The dust was carried into her home where she unwittingly inhaled it for many years, according to the suit.
She died from mesothelioma in 2013, but medical science indicates that the incubation period for that disease is 20 to 50 years. Strict liability, defective product and failure to warn of dangers are some of the theories alleged by plaintiffs in the suit. A case like this will rely heavily on medical testimony explaining the nature of the disease and the medical dynamics of causation. The spreading of the asbestos fibers through the air is a known factor in West Virginia and elsewhere, but it must be proven by expert testimony.
Source: The Louisiana Record, Family of deceased woman allegedly exposed to asbestos used as driveway filler sues, Kyle Barnett, Dec. 19, 2013