Asbestos Lung Cancer Afflicts Laborer

Written by Jason Wentworth
Thursday, 21 October 2010 15:37

A man who immigrated to the New York City region from his native Ireland to seek work as a carpenter discovered many years too late that his work—both as an independently employed carpenter and later as an employee of the New York City Sanitation Department—caused him to be exposed to toxic asbestos materials.

Like many other men who worked in construction trades, despite having little to no actual hands-on work with asbestos materials, he inhaled asbestos dusts on the job.  His long-term exposure caused him to develop a life-threatening form of lung cancer caused by asbestos exposure.

In this tragic case, the man was diagnosed with asbestos lung cancer almost 35 years after accepting his first carpentry job in the United States.  In addition to the expert care he obtained from his doctors and other healthcare professionals on his medical team, he also sought help from New York City’s Weitz & Luxenberg, a law firm that has been fighting for justice on behalf of those stricken with asbestos cancer for more than 20 years.

As part of the man’s asbestos lawsuit, he provided testimony about his extensive work history, his eventual illness and diagnosis and his current health.

The man testified that when he first arrived in the United States, a family member helped him to secure a job with a construction company.  He recalled that his first years in the States were spent working on jobs throughout the New York City area, where he worked on job sites where aging church buildings and synagogues were being converted into day care centers.  He testified he worked with asbestos-containing sheetrock, floor tile, asbestos-containing plaster and asbestos-containing drop ceiling tile materials, and also recalled working alongside workers in other trades who worked with other asbestos products, including joint compounding materials.

After qualifying as a member of the New York City carpenter’s union, his local provided him with other jobs throughout the area.  He testified he worked on both renovation and new construction projects at job sites including high rise apartment buildings, school buildings, office buildings, hospitals and museums.  He also worked on the construction of an underground subway car storage facility built near Central Park.  The man stated his work at all of these jobs caused him to work with asbestos products and to work alongside plumbers, electricians and other tradesman who were working with asbestos materials.

He subsequently accepted a job with the New York City Sanitation Department, where he summarized his duties as “half maintenance work, to maintain the facilities throughout the city and the rest would be new work.”

In particular, he testified that he worked on renovation projects converting incinerators, where he worked on crews that converted those incinerators to parking garages for sanitation department trucks and other vehicles.  These jobs exposed him to asbestos in the incinerators themselves as well as repairs and reinstallation of fire doors at these facilities.

He also testified that his awareness of asbestos materials while working for the sanitation department came from discussions with co-workers: “[It was] just common knowledge.  They [workers in other trades] came out afterwards that there’s asbestos in the mortar that they build the firebricks with.”  He also testified that this job was the first and only time in his working life where he was provided with a respirator and mask, and that his supervisor had told him the reason for the need for protective equipment was “…there’s asbestos in those incinerators, we got to go in there and close them up.”

“…I Got A Cough and Shortness of Breath…”

The man testified that he enjoyed very good health throughout his life until he was temporarily sidelined by a stroke in the late 1990s.  After he recovered from the stroke, his doctors cleared him to return to work for the sanitation department.

Several years later, he began to notice breathing problems, and testified that he “got a cough.  I got a shortness of breath climbing stairs.”

After seeing his doctors, he underwent a number of tests where he was told he had a “white out lung” and underwent a procedure to drain fluid from his lungs.  He testified that he remained hospitalized after that procedure, and subsequently underwent lung surgery.  After his surgery, the man spent the next months being treated with both chemotherapy and radiation.

Prognosis for His Future

When asked about how his illness had on his life, he testified about his current health and how his illness, surgery and other medical treatment had affected him.

The man stated that at the time he gave his deposition testimony, he had not been able to work for almost six months and that he had essentially been confined to bed rest for more than three months.

He also testified about the side-effects from chemotherapy and radiation therapy: “My skin is burned there.  Right now, today, like today, I’m burned from the radiation, my front and my back.  I had a rib removed during the surgery.  This hurts if you hit it wrong.  I can’t sleep on it.  I can’t touch it.  I get quite tired…I’m kind of washed out.”

While the man was unmarried and had no children, the man testified that his long-term girlfriend was not employed and dependent on him for financial support.

Because of the hard work of his asbestos lawyers, in the five years since his diagnosis with asbestos cancer, he has had over the he has had the benefit of over $2.9 million in financial compensation obtained for him from asbestos lawsuit settlements.

Last Updated on Thursday, 21 October 2010 16:15


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