Asbestos Cancer Strikes Former Power Plant Worker at Brooklyn Navy Yard
Written by Jason Wentworth
Wednesday, 08 September 2010 16:55
Almost 20 years after retiring from his job at the Brooklyn Navy Yard’s Central Power Plant, a New York City man with over 40 years of service at the Yard was stricken with asbestos cancer. Tragically, his illness was caused by decades of exposure to the cancer-causing mineral while on the job.
During the weeks and months following his diagnosis, the elderly widower and his extended family were exploring health options and treatments to treat his illness. His family also helped him to make the decision to contact Weitz & Luxenberg, a New York City-based law firm that is a national leader in the fight for the rights of those stricken with mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.
As part of the man’s asbestos lawsuit, he provided testimony about his illness, his work history and his worries about his the progression of his illness.
During his long civilian career in the Yard’s power plant, the man testified he was initially hired as a laborer, where he assisted mechanics, boilermakers, pipe coverers, electricians and water tenders. He stated he had daily exposure to asbestos dusts and debris while assisting these laborers: “I cleaned it up, picked it up, swept up…after the mechanic worked, or boilermaker, or pipe coverer, or whoever worked, I had to clean up and pick it up…”
Over the years he moved up the company ranks working as an engine man, leading man, quarterman and chief quarterman. As he took on roles that included supervisory responsibilities, his daily asbestos exposure remained constant: “Let me put it this way, you were always exposed… wherever I went, and whatever the machine was doing…I was exposed to the asbestos.”
Later in his career at the Yard, he was promoted to the position of Director of Utilities. The man went on to describe his duties as Director and explained that he walked the Power Plant and other locations at the Yard where asbestos was used on a daily basis. He also recalled being on duty the day of the USS Constellation explosion and fire disaster: “Believe me, there was asbestos flying all over the place that day because the ship was on fire, and there were firemen shooting water on it.”
He continued his work as Director of Utilities even after the Yard’s operations were transferred from the U.S. Navy to the Commerce Labor Industry of Kings, where he continued to face daily exposure to asbestos-contaminated dusts.
Retirement and Eventual Diagnosis with Asbestos Cancer
When he turned 65, he retired and spent a number of years without experiencing any serious health problems. He testified that that his health was “better than good, almost excellent,” and that he enjoyed making doll houses and model boats for his nieces and nephews, taking daily mile-long walks and would occasionally travel to Atlantic City.
Almost 20 years after he retired, he began to experience unexplained weight loss, but had no other symptoms until he experienced an episode where he felt faint and was having trouble breathing.
After going to the hospital, he underwent several medical tests. He testified that his doctors told him “…your whole chest and your stomach are loaded with asbestos.” He underwent a procedure where over a quart of fluid was drained from his right lung, and he was eventually discharged. Since the first hospitalization, the man had experienced two additional episodes of severe shortness of breath and was again admitted to the hospital.
Outlook for the Future
The man testified that he now suffers from shortness of breath that complicates even routine activities such as walking up the steps in his home to reach his bedroom. He also discussed the impact his now daily oxygen needs have had on his outlook on life:” I’m very discouraged, let’s put it that way…I feel like a lost soul counting [my] last minutes.”
He also related his anger and frustration about his illness in light of medical care he was receiving at a clinic near the Brooklyn Navy Yard: “…I have to go in there. You know, I can see that son of a bitch, those two stacks, right out the window there. It is getting me pissed off.”
He was also worried about his finances, as his only source of income was his pension and social security pensions. Although his wife of over 50 years had died several years before his diagnosis and the couple had no children, he was helping to support his widowed sister, whose only income was a small social security pension.
While this man battled his illness for almost 6 years after his diagnosis, the man and his extended family had additional financial resources to assist the family in caring for him and his elderly sister. Because of the hard work by Weitz & Luxenberg mesothelioma lawyers and their dedication to his fight for justice, he and his family were helped by more than $1.5 million in asbestos disease settlement proceeds.