If you ever saw movie Erin Brochovich you might remember that a large corporation, Pacific Gas and Water, had been knowingly allowing poison into a small town’s water supply for years just to make more profits. The poison sickened and even killed many residents.
What’s the connection between that movie and railroad workers that suffer from a deadly form of cancer called mesothelioma? Well it turns out that railroad companies like Norfolk Southern (NS), CSX, and Conrail know about asbestos and its connection to mesothelioma cancer decades ago but continued to allow railroad workers to be exposed. The railroads knew that it would be decades before any workers would get diagnosed with cancers, and they rolled the dice that workers would have great difficulty proving their exposures.
Internal documents show that the nation's railroads were aware of the health risks and side effects associated with asbestos dating all the way to the 1950s. Did big railroad companies do anything to remove asbestos and keep the workplace safe for their railroad workers? No. Despite being aware of the risks of using asbestos on pipes, engines, and other items for decades, most railroad companies did not start removing asbestos from diesel freight locomotive engines until the 1990s. Again, the railroads banked on the difficulty in worker’s proving where and when the often invisible level of asbestos exposures occurred. After all, unsafe levels of asbestos are invisible to the naked eye.
In delaying any action to remove asbestos from diesel locomotive engines, the railroads knew that even an invisible amount of tiny asbestos fibers can cause lung cancer or mesothelioma, decades after the minimal exposure to asbestos. Also, the railroads were knowledgeable by the 1960s and 1970s that railroad workers who smoke cigarettes were especially facing high risks of cancers.
As Virginia (VA) FELA and railroad injury lawyers we are often asked, “What exactly is mesothelioma?" The short answer is that mesothelioma is a type of cancer that affects the linings of your body’s lungs. The only known cause of mesothelioma is asbestos exposure, and even one day or very small exposures can cause mesothelioma to manifest itself decades later. This cancer is terminal and horrible. Many people who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma were exposed to asbestos on a railroad job or lived with someone who worked a railroad job that involved asbestos.
One problem that many railroad workers face when diagnosed with mesothelioma is that the disease process has a decades long latency period, following exposure. This means that it may be decades after exposure that a railroad worker contracts a lung cancer, bladder cancer, colon cancer, or other type of cancer such as mesothelioma.
Sadly, mesothelioma and other deadly railroad cancers can affect virtually any railroad worker including, brakemen, conductors, equipment operators, engineers, ironworkers, locomotive machinists, mechanics and switchmen.
Through may prior cases, through discovery processes, depositions, and trials, we have developed experience with how to best present these serious cancer cases.