Mesothelioma is a relatively rare form of cancer that develops in the mesothelium. The mesothelium is a membrane that lines most of the body’s internal organs, including the lungs, abdomen, and heart. Mesothelioma as well as lung cancer have been linked to exposure to asbestos. Asbestos was once a product that was widely used in building insulation.
Starting in 1973 the Environmental Protection Agency banned the use of asbestos in various products. Over the past century there have been thousands of lawsuits filed against manufacturers of asbestos-containing products such as the Johns-Manville Corporation by people who have developed mesothelioma and other ailments after being exposed to asbestos. The costs of asbestos-related litigation in the United States has exceeded $250 billion. While lawsuits by people who developed mesothelioma from exposure to asbestos continue, there are also people who developed mesothelioma from smoking cigarettes.
The Link Between Smoking and Asbestos
Like asbestos product manufacturers, over the years there have been thousands of lawsuits against cigarette manufacturers based on the addictive qualities of cigarettes and the health problems, such as lung cancer, caused by smoking cigarettes. However, in a rather unusual case cigarette smoking has also been linked to asbestos-related mesothelioma. In the 1950s when the health risks of smoking began to emerge, cigarette companies sought ways to reduce the negative health effects of smoking. One way was to fit cigarettes with filters which reduced the amount of tar in cigarette smoke. From 1952 to 1956 the Lorillard Tobacco Company manufactured a version of its Kent brand of cigarettes, called Kent Micronite, with filters containing asbestos fibers, and marketed the new filter as “the greatest health protection in cigarette history.” However, Lorillard failed to reveal that the filter was made with asbestos.
As a result of exposure to asbestos, people who smoked Kent Micronite cigarettes suffered health problems including mesothelioma asbestosis, and lung cancer. In the 1980s and 1990s Lorillard was hit with a slew of mesothelioma lawsuits and ended up paying millions to victims.
Richard Delisle, et al. v. Lorillard Tobacco Company
While Lorillard might have believed that asbestos-related lawsuits were a thing of the past, a recent case demonstrates that Lorillard remains vulnerable to lawsuits based on its asbestos-filled Kent Micronite cigarettes from the 1950s. Richard Deslisle of Leesburg, Florida smoked Kent Micronite cigarettes when he was a teenager in the 1950s. Now 74 years old, in July 2012 Delisle was diagnosed with asbestos mesothelioma.
The jury awarded Deslisle $8 million in damages, of which Lorillard was ordered to pay $4.2 million. Other defendants included paper manufacturer Crane Co. which was Deslisle’s former employer, and Hollingsworth & Vose Company, the company that manufactured the filters for Lorillard. The defendants challenged the validity of the scientific evidence presented to support Delisle’s claims and plan to appeal the verdict.
If a company hides the fact that it is using a harmful ingredient in a product that it manufactures and sells to the public, should victims harmed by the product be awarded punitive damages because of the deceit?
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Andrew Miller is a passionate member of the End Ecocide movement, an avid legal blogger and Environmental Law Student. He has worked in marketing for over a decade and finds his passion in bringing concepts to life. As a Socialpreneur, he is an agent for positive social change through both his writing and business endeavors.