By: Andrew S. Wainwright
As the world confronts the novel coronavirus (and its associated illness, COVID-19), we are becoming more aware of how masks and respirators can, potentially, protect us from airborne contaminants. Individual respiratory protection devices have been around for over a hundred years. From the use of gas masks to protect soldiers from mustard gas in World War I, to masks used to protect health care workers from pathogens, we have relied on masks to prevent the inhalation of harmful substances.
The coronavirus relief bill enacted into law this week, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, included a limitation of liability for respirator (i.e., N95 mask) manufacturers that will be in place until October 1, 2024. This new law bans health care workers and anyone else who wears an N95 mask from suing the manufacturers of those masks, as well as some other businesses involved in the respirator supply chain in coronavirus treatment. If the mask wearer subsequently develops an illness related to the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) or COVID-19 outbreak that the mask was intended to prevent, that person cannot bring a lawsuit for that illness. The immunity:
- Only applies for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency as declared by HHS (applicable through 2024)
- Only covers respirators that have an emergency use authorization issued by the FDA and
- Only extends to claims that have some relationship to treatment of COVID-19.
Further, on March 17, 2020, the Department of Health and Human Services submitted a Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act COVID-19 (coronavirus) declaration in the Federal Register for the following covered persons and countermeasures:
- Covered Persons: manufacturers, distributors, program planners, qualified persons, healthcare providers, and their officials, agents, employees. It also includes any person authorized to prescribe, administer, or dispense countermeasures.
- Countermeasures: any drug, diagnostic, device, or vaccine used to treat coronavirus, or any device used in the administration of any such product, and all components and constituent materials of any such product.
The time period for temporary immunity will be the final day the emergency declaration is in effect, or October 1, 2024, whichever occurs first.
The PREP Act also creates a measure much like worker’s compensation, called the Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program (CICP). CICP will provide benefits (which can include compensation for unreimbursed medical expenses, lost employment income, and/or survivor death benefits) to certain individuals or estates of individuals who sustain serious physical injuries or death as the direct result of a countermeasure.
Masks and respirators have also been used to protect workers from harmful dusts, such as silica and asbestos. However, not all masks or respirators are created equal. A mask does not provide the same level of protection as a respirator. In fact, in the world of industrial hygiene, the term “mask” has been designated for use only to prevent inhalation of nuisance dusts: dusts that do not pose a serious health risk. “Respirators”, on the other hand, are designated for use with harmful substances. These designations have often been confused, and the risks can be severe.
Some masks and respirators have been marketed and sold for protection against particular substances, such as asbestos, that they were not designed for. Others were just defectively designed and were ineffective at protecting workers as intended. Sometimes the respirators included valves that leaked, and certain masks were not properly designed to create a good fit against the face.
OSHA (Occupational Health and Safety Administration), NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) and the U.S. Bureau of Mines have regulated the effectiveness, categorization and selection of respirators in specific work settings. These regulations have not always been followed closely.
Thornton Law Firm LLP has extensive experience in litigating dozens of asbestos cases against the manufacturers of defective masks and respirators. We have gone to trial and successfully settled these respirator cases. We know that just because a worker may have worn a mask or respirator while working with asbestos or any other industrial dust, it does not mean he or she was properly protected. The immunity for mask manufacturers under the PREP Act is limited to masks currently being manufactured in response to the COVID-19 crisis and should have no effect on litigation regarding asbestos. If you have contracted an asbestos-related disease after using a defective mask or respirator, we can help. Call Thornton Law Firm LLP at 888-491-9726 for a free consultation with an experienced attorney.
Thornton Law Firm LLP is located at One Lincoln St., 13th fl., State Street Financial Center, Boston, MA 02111.
Second Multi-Million Asbestos Related Verdict for Boston Law Firm in Two Weeks
By: David McMorris, Esq.
Published on October 5, 2017
BOSTON, Mass.– A Superior Court jury in Boston returned a verdict of $6.8 million dollars against New England Insulation, a Canton company that distributed and installed asbestos insulation material until the early 1970s. Former Massachusetts insulator Timothy Ross passed away due to mesothelioma, an asbestos-related cancer, on Aug. 19, 2013. His widow, Amy Ross, pursued this case individually and on behalf of his estate.
“Our family, including my children, are very pleased that justice was served,” said Ross. “Were he here, I know my husband would be greatly appreciative of the team that represented him and the jury for their hard work and dedication.”
This is the second multi-million-dollar verdict in two weeks for the Thornton Law Firm and co-counsel Waters & Kraus against New England Insulation. Last week, on Sept. 21, 2017, another Boston jury returned a verdict of $7.55 million for Gerald Sylvestre, a former New Hampshire power plant worker currently undergoing treatment for mesothelioma.
“We’re very happy with the verdict reached by the jury,” said attorney Andrew Wainwright of Thornton Law Firm. “They recognized the pain the Ross family endured through the years and rightfully held New England Insulation responsible for their actions.”
Thornton Law Firm was founded in 1978 by Michael Thornton doing groundbreaking work for victims of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. Now the leading injury law firm in Massachusetts and the largest plaintiff law firm in New England, the firm has a dedicated team of attorneys representing thousands of clients in a wide variety of plaintiff-side work. Thornton Law Firm has represented asbestos victims in New England for nearly over 40 years. This commitment led the firm to aid in the creation of the Thornton House, which provides housing for mesothelioma and asbestos disease patients and families.
If you need help contact David McMorris, either by email, or phone 617-694-3934.
Call 888-491-9726 for a free consultation with a recognized leader in mesothelioma and asbestos litigation. You can also contact us online to discuss the details of your case.
By: Andrew S. Wainwright, Esq.
Published on May 11, 2017
Mesothelioma is a type of malignant cancer that affects the thin lining of the body’s internal organs. It has been known for decades that mesothelioma is the direct result of exposure to asbestos. In response, the federal government banned many asbestos-containing products, although even today some asbestos products are still sold legally, and workers are still exposed in older structures that contain asbestos. Sadly, mesothelioma deaths continue to rise across the United States.
More Than 45,000 Mesothelioma Deaths Since 1999
On March 3, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released updated figures on mesothelioma-related deaths in the United States from 1999 to 2015. “Contrary to past projections,” the CDC said, “the number of malignant mesothelioma deaths has been increasing.” In 1999, there were 2,479 reported mesothelioma deaths. In 2015, there were 2,597–an increase of nearly 5 percent.
Overall there have been more than 45,000 mesothelioma-related deaths since 1999. Nearly 80 percent of these victims were men. About 95 percent were Caucasian.
Not surprisingly, the majority of mesothelioma deaths occurred when the victims were age 55 or older. The CDC noted that the time lapse between initial exposure to asbestos and the onset of malignant mesothelioma is typically 20 to 39 years – and in some cases as long as 71 years. This means workers exposed to asbestos at the age of 25 in 1977 may not be diagnosed with mesothelioma until after they have retired.
But even with modern health and safety rules designed to protect workers, exposure still remains a risk. The CDC said exposure now occurs “predominantly during maintenance operations and remediation of older buildings containing asbestos.” The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) maintains strict standards for removing asbestos from existing buildings. But if individual employers, particularly in the construction industry, fail to abide by these standards, workers may still be exposed. This can also expose family members of such workers, the CDC said, since asbestos fibers on clothing may later be inhaled by other members of the worker’s household.
Do You Need to Speak With a Boston Asbestos & Mesothelioma Attorney?
According to the CDC’s figures, the highest age-adjusted death rates for mesothelioma victims are found in northeastern states, notably Massachusetts and Maine. This underscores the ongoing public health crisis of mesothelioma in and around the Boston area. If you or a family member have been exposed to asbestos and need to speak with a Boston mesothelioma lawyer, contact Thornton Law Firm, LLP, online today or call (888) 491-9726 to schedule a free consultation.
Call 888-341-1405 for a free consultation with a recognized leader in mesothelioma and asbestos litigation. You can also contact us online to discuss the details of your case.
By: Andrew S. Wainwright, Esq.
Published on January 11, 2017
During the first part of the twentieth century, many construction companies began using carcinogenic asbestos fibers in their building materials, including drywall, insulation, and ceiling tiles. Unfortunately, it was several decades before the general public discovered the link between asbestos exposure and mesothelioma, an aggressive and often deadly form of cancer. Although companies have since discontinued using almost all materials that contain asbestos, many individuals continue to suffer from this illness as a result of asbestos exposure. Fortunately, in the last ten years, doctors have made great strides in treating mesothelioma.
Recently, doctors have begun studying a new technique, known as photodynamic therapy (PDT), which involves injecting a light-activated drug into the bloodstream. The drug is then absorbed by cells throughout the body, although it stays in cancer cells longer than it does in regular cells. Within three days of injection, when the drug has left the body’s normal cells but remains in the cancer cells, the tumor is exposed to a special form of light through fiber optic cables that are inserted into the lungs or esophagus. The drug in the cancer cells absorbs this light, which produces an active form of oxygen that destroys the cells. There is also evidence that PDT shrinks tumors by damaging blood vessels in the tumor and by activating the immune system to attack cancer cells.
Because the drug only works in areas exposed to the light, it is hypothesized that this form of treatment could have fewer side effects, such as vomiting, nausea, and hair loss that often accompany other forms of treatment.
Scientists are also attempting to attack mesothelioma at the molecular level by identifying, correcting, or replacing genetic abnormalities. One approach to gene therapy requires the injection of genetically modified viruses that target cancer cells. These viruses can destroy the cancer cells outright by discharging a genetic material that causes cell death. Other genes can also help slow the growth of blood vessels that feed cancer cells.
Another treatment in the clinical stages is immunotherapy, which is achieved through introducing antigens, such as chemicals, bacteria, or viruses into the body, which stimulate the immune system’s response to kill cancer cells. Because only specific cells are targeted, this form of treatment may have fewer side effects than other methods, such as chemotherapy.
Contact a Massachusetts Mesothelioma and Asbestos Attorney Today
If you have been recently diagnosed with mesothelioma and have questions or concerns about your own exposure to asbestos, please contact Attorney Andrew Wainwright at Thornton Law Firm, LLP at (888) 341-1395 to schedule an initial consultation. Our offices are located in Boston, Massachusetts.
By: Andrew S. Wainwright, Esq.
Published on May 17, 2016
A California jury awarded $32.8 million dollars to a foundry worker and his wife for his developing mesothelioma after breathing asbestos while wearing a defective respirator sold by American Optical Corporation. Bill Tyler was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a cancer caused only by asbestos, in 2015. The jury award included $10 million in punitive damages, the first time American Optical Corporation has been ordered to pay punitive (punishment) damages.
How was the plaintiff exposed to asbestos?
Bill Tyler, age 62, began working at Foundry Service and Supply in Torrance, California as a 19-year-old, from 1972 until 1992. He wore an American Optical Corporation mask for 17 years, believing it would protect him from breathing asbestos dust generated by foundry operations that included cutting Marinite boards that contained asbestos. However, American Optical Corporation knew that workers used its R2090 mask to protect against asbestos exposure, and knew that it was not designed to protect against asbestos. What they sold was a false sense of security. Tyler and his fellow workers thought they were protected from harm, and they were instead being exposed to harm.
Why didn’t American Optical R2090 respirators protect against asbestos exposure?
The R2090 respirator included a double head strap that to an ordinary consumer seemed to pull the mask tight enough against the face to protect against asbestos inhalation. But the mask was not designed for asbestos protection. It leaked around the edges, and deadly asbestos got in and was inhaled.
In addition, if there is sufficient asbestos in the atmosphere, even a high-quality respirator mask is not enough, by itself, to protect you from asbestos exposure. That’s why today asbestos removal is performed by workers wearing disposable gear over their respirators. This includes a suit, hood, gloves, and shoe covers. Before removing the gear, the worker is sprayed with water mist and all the gear must be removed while the respirator is still on. The entire outfit is sealed in asbestos waste containers before the mask is removed.
What were Tyler’s claims against American Optical?
Tyler sued American Optical for strict product liability, negligence, negligent failure to warn, concealment, and intentional misrepresentation. The jury ruled that American Optical knew its respirator would not protect against asbestos exposure, and hid that fact from Tyler and others who used the R2090 mask.
Is American Optical the only company that made respirators?
No, other companies also made dangerous respirators. Thornton Law Firm has successfully prosecuted cases over the last 15 years for workers who alleged they wore defective respirators while cutting asbestos, and developed mesothelioma as a result.
Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company (3M Co.) manufactured masks for use in workplaces where asbestos was being used, including the 8500 dust mask and the 8710 disposable respirator. (You’d probably recognize an 8710 – the disposable paper nose cone with a yellow headband and an aluminum piece that you could press to fit your nose.) 3M advertised that those masks would protect workers from dangerous dusts. Like American Optical, the 3M lawsuits allege that the devices did not provide adequate protection against workplace dust and asbestos particles. Both products have since been removed from the market by 3M Co.
Similarly, Mine Safety Appliances Company (MSA) sold its Dustfoe 66 respirators and masks with the promise that they would provide protection from asbestos dust. The Dustfoe 66 respirators were sold throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s and came in a tin box. The respirator itself was notable for its triangle-shaped nosepiece. While advertised that it could protect workers from asbestos, lawsuits allege the MSA Dustfoe 66 respirators did not provide the promised protection, and that MSA was aware of the defects. Often, these respirators were worn by workers cutting asbestos-containing materials in machine and fabricating shops.
What can I do if I have developed mesothelioma after using a defective mask?
Thornton Law Firm has been fighting for asbestos victims since 1978, including lawsuits against the manufacturers of dangerous and defective masks and respirators. If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or any asbestos-related disease, count on New England’s leading mesothelioma law firm to get you the full compensation you are entitled to under the law. Call our toll free number 888-632-0108 or tell us your story here. All legal claims have short time limits so call now to protect your legal rights.
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with mesothelioma or other asbestos
disease, call 1-888-632-0108 for a no-obligation evaluation of your legal rights, or
tell us your story using our online contact form.
By: Andrew S. Wainwright, Esq.
Published on January 5, 2016
Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts released a report sharply critical of schools across the country – including schools right here in Massachusetts – for failing to comply with federal laws meant to safeguard against the hazards presented by airborne asbestos in schools. The report, ‘Failing the Grade: Asbestos in America’s Schools‘, reveals that most schools are not aware of all the asbestos in place in their buildings. As a result, renovations and repairs are conducted without the important safety measures meant to prevent the spread and release of breathable asbestos fibers.
Asbestos in Schools – Safeguarding Students, Teachers, and School Personnel
In March Senator Markey and Senator Boxer from California asked states whether they were in compliance with the 30 year old federal law governing asbestos in schools, the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (known as AHERA). Almost half of U.S. schools were built between 1950 and 1969, when asbestos was routinely used as a building material.
Where Can Asbestos Be Found in a School?
Asbestos in schools may be found in the insulation of heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems; as fireproofing on the structure; as ceiling material, either sprayed or tiles; in roofing and floor tiles; in wallboard or plaster walls or ceilings; in soundproofing material; even in chipped paint. As long as the asbestos materials are undisturbed and in good condition, the EPA maintains the risk is minimal and recommends they be left in place. But as older schools require constant maintenance, and often require repairs or updating, work done poorly or by workers unaware that asbestos is present can cause serious exposures.
What Does Federal Law Require of Schools?
AHERA requires that each state monitor asbestos in schools and prevent exposure by:
- Inspect every school once, then re-inspect every 3 years
- Develop an asbestos management plan. A copy must be kept at the school
- Annual notification to parents, teachers and employees re the plan and any abatement planned or completed
- Designate an asbestos coordinator
- Periodic surveillance of known/suspected asbestos
- All inspections and abatement be performed by accredited professionals
- Asbestos awareness training for custodial/maintenance employees
Serious Asbestos Management Problems Identified In Our Schools
Markey’s report is based on the response of 20 states. More than two-thirds reported having schools that contain asbestos, and most of that asbestos is unabated. Neither the states nor the school districts are complying with AHERA. Only 288 of the 3,690 school districts that have schools with asbestos actually perform periodic inspections of those schools – less than 10%. Similarly, the report found that “States do not appear to be systematically monitoring, investigating or addressing asbestos hazards in schools.”
What Can You Do?
Parents, teachers or employees should ask for an annual asbestos statement if you are not receiving one. Ask to see the school’s asbestos management plan. Ask if your child’s school is periodically inspected for asbestos. If you see deteriorating materials in your school, report it to the designated asbestos coordinator. States are required to keep your children safe, but the Markey report shows that states are failing to do so.
Thornton Law Firm is Massachusetts’ first, most successful, and most respected team of mesothelioma lawyers. We have had the great privilege of representing injured asbestos victims in mesothelioma and asbestos cases since 1978. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease, call on our experienced, compassionate mesothelioma lawyers for a free, no obligation consultation by calling 1-888-632-0108 or by telling us your story online. Like all legal claims, asbestos claims have short time limits. Do not delay seeking advice.
The Worcester area contractor convicted of exposing a teenager to asbestos during a demolition job was sentenced to serve 60 days of a 2 year jail sentence by a Superior Court judge. Daniel A. Watterson, 43, formerly of Webster, was convicted of child endangerment and three violations of the Commonwealth’s Clean Air Act.
Watterson hired the 17-year-old boy to help remove and dispose of insulation on two boilers in the basement of a house on June Street in Worcester. The teen removed the asbestos from the boilers and pipes by ripping off the insulation and chipping at it with a putty knife. The original indictment described the work this way: “The insulation was allegedly piled in the cellar space before being placed in trash bags and transported to a dumpster owned by Watterson for disposal. Authorities further allege that the workers broke down the boilers and its components, using sledgehammers and hacksaws. The components were later rejected by a local scrap yard for disposal due to visible asbestos.”
Watterson’s attorney asked for probation and no jail time for his client, saying that he too had been exposed to asbestos fibers, acted without intent or malice, and had already lost his home improvement contracting and oil burner technician licenses. The judge rejected those arguments and in addition to the jail sentence, ordered Watterson to pay for an annual medical examination for the teenager, and to reimburse the homeowner $1,675 for the costs they incurred in complying with state orders to decontaminate their basement.
This was the first use of the child endangerment statute in an asbestos case. We applaud the state for pursuing this case and others more aggressively, both to educate the public and to deter businesses from exposing young workers who are less aware of the hazards of asbestos contamination. If you believe asbestos exposure is occurring during renovation or demolition, contact the MassDEP Environmental Strike Force Hotline at 1-888-VIOLATE (846-5283) or the Attorney General’s Office at 617-727-2200.
The judge ordered lifetime medical monitoring of the asbestos exposed teenager because asbestos disease is not contracted immediately. Instead, it develops over time, and the time period between exposure to asbestos and the later development of disease is referred to as the latency period. All of the asbestos-related diseases including mesothelioma, asbestosis, and cancer, have long latency periods. In the case of mesothelioma, the latency period can be as little as 10 years or upwards of 39 or more years. Unfortunately, once embedded in lung tissue, asbestos cannot be exhaled or released. Since asbestos is a carcinogen, even a brief exposure to asbestos is capable of causing disease years later.
Thornton Law Firm is the first law firm to represent asbestos victims in Massachusetts and throughout New England and has done so since 1978. The courts have appointed us as coordinating counsel to represent the interests of all asbestos plaintiffs in cases filed in both Massachusetts state and federal courts. If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease, call the Boston asbestos lawyers of Thornton Law Firm at 888-491-9726 for a free, confidential consultation, or tell us your story online. Asbestos claims, like all legal claims, are subject to short time limits, so do not delay seeking legal assistance.
Andrew S. Wainwright, Esq.
Posted on Nov 19, 2013
An ad from 1955: “Only KENT gives you the scientific Micronite filter that takes out so much of the nicotine and tars.” (From the collection of Stanford University, tobacco.stanford.edu)
It is common knowledge that asbestos was used as insulation material – used in pipe coverings and cements. Less well-known, though, is that asbestos was incorporated into a wide variety of everyday construction and household items: paint, caulk, attic insulation, gardening supplies, makeup, and even crayons.
What is almost unknown, however, is that asbestos was once used as a “safety” feature in Kent cigarettes. In the 1950s, the Kent “Micronite” filter was featured in a wide array of the company’s advertisements with taglines like, “More scientists and educators smoke Kent with the Micronite Filter.” “You can SEE the proof of Kent’s health protection.” Those unfortunate enough to have smoked Kent Micronite cigarettes were not, as advertised, safer. Instead, they combined their exposure to cigarette smoke with asbestos exposure – inhaling through a filter made of asbestos.
In addition to the cigarette smokers of this era, workers who worked in factories manufacturing these filters were also put at risk of developing asbestos-related diseases like asbestosis and mesothelioma.
This is because the Micronite filters were made with crocidolite (“blue”) asbestos. These filters were developed and manufactured in the early and mid-1950s by the specialty paper and filter manufacturer Hollingsworth & Vose, through its subsidiary H&V Specialties. The Micronite cigarette filter material was produced for Lorillard Tobacco Company. From March 1952 until at least May 1956, when Kent stopped its production, asbestos remained in Kent cigarettes. (The Kent Micronites are still sold today, but Kent now uses charcoal filters).
Hollingsworth & Vose manufactured this Micronite material at its Massachusetts plants in West Groton and Rochdale. The company also used asbestos in filters it manufactured for gas masks to be used by the U.S. military. Many workers who worked on or near the Micronite or gas mask projects were exposed to large amounts of asbestos.
The asbestos attorneys at Thornton Law Firm have represented workers from the Hollingsworth & Vose plants for many years. In doing so, they have gathered a vast amount of information concerning the use of asbestos in these facilities. We understand how important it is for you to secure legal representation as soon as possible after a diagnosis of mesothelioma. If you or a loved one were once employed at Hollingsworth & Vose and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, tell us your story here, or give us a call at 1-888-632-0108. Asbestos claims are subject to short time limits. Call now to protect your legal rights.