An $80 million settlement was reached more than thirty years after government
workers were exposed to asbestos during a building renovation.
The settlement launched the largest medical monitoring found in Missouri, which now serves to provide health screenings to former employees, jurors, attorneys and inmates who may have been exposed to the deadly asbestos fibers. The asbestos firm named in the lawsuit, U.S Engineering, agreed to settle last October, prior to the opening trial date.
Former county employees Jeanne Morgan and David Elsea led the case after their co-worker Nancy Lopez died of mesothelioma in 2010 at age 56. This specific cancer is correlated with asbestos exposure, and usually claims victims a year after diagnosis. Morgan testified that while working there between 1983 and 1985, U.S Engineering did not take proper asbestos precautions while renovating the Jackson County courthouse. Court records report that workers tracked asbestos insulation throughout the building while cutting through old pipes, hauling it down the elevator and dumping it in the building's dumpster.
"The particles would be... all over the papers," Jeanne Morgan, former county employee, said in court hearing.
Other witnesses testify that the workers didn't use masks and didn't post warning signs for employees. A former executive of the asbestos firm testified against his employees, confirming that the company failed to prevent asbestos contamination of the building.
Some 7,500 others may also be affected by the unsafe renovation; the state of Missouri contends it would be less costly to provide preventative health screenings than waiting for asbestos-related illnesses to present themselves.
The beneficiaries are split into two groups: those who can prove they were in the courthouse for at least 80 hours during the renovation, and those who can prove they were in the courthouse for at least 80 hours in a year between 1986 and 2007. The former group is eligible for annual medical exams and the latter group is eligible for one free screening every five years.
As it stands, this settlement will help thousands of potential victims and hopefully serve as a dissuasion against further faulty asbestos renovations.
For more information about asbestos legal options, visit The Mesothelioma Center's homepage. For more information about asbestos certification, visit Zack Academy's asbestos homepage.