The outrageous misconduct of the asbestos industry over the last century has killed hundreds of thousands. Men and women who worked their entire lives for the benefit of companies that knowingly put their lives and those of their families at risk.
The asbestos industry ignored, mislead, and lied about asbestos' dangers for decades.
Originally a four-part series written for the The New Yorker, Paul Brodeur's book Outrageous Misconduct: The Asbestos Industry on Trial details a decade of callous behavior by the industry. From the book: "punitive damages... are assessed for outrageous and reckless misconduct."
Asbestos Lawsuits and Changes from Asbestos Manufacturers
Knowledge about the risks of asbestos has been piling up since the 19th century. In 1964, the New York Academy of Sciences held a conference on the "Biological Effects of Asbestos," and any lingering doubts that asbestos was a carcinogen (which were already weak thanks to innumerable medical studies) were silenced.
However, even after 1964, companies continued to mine, produce, and sell asbestos and asbestos-containing products. Were it not for pioneering asbestos lawyers, use of the "miracle mineral" would likely have continued to rise in the US.
The first asbestos lawsuit against asbestos product manufacturers, which concluded in 1969, was actually successfully defended by the industry. Asbestos manufacturers argued what would come to be known as the "state-of-the-art" defense. In short, the asbestos companies argued that they didn't know and couldn't have known the risks associated with asbestos until the 1960s.
However, despite supposedly learning of these risks in the 60s, asbestos use and importation in the United States continued to rise through the mid seventies. Asbestos use in the United States did not stop decreasing until after 1973. Interestingly, 1973 is the same year the first asbestos lawsuit verdict against manufacturers was upheld on appeal.
Despite protests to the contrary, the asbestos industry was never going to listen to the facts about asbestos cancer, only to their pocketbooks. And despite their protestations, the asbestos industry had known for decades about the risks. As more people injured by asbestos came forward and more asbestos lawsuits were researched, the evidence of companies' long-standing prior knowledge was revealed in shocking detail.
Asbestos Lawsuits Reveal Companies' Prior Knowledge
As it turned out, asbestos lawyers would uncover more and more evidence revealing the prior knowledge of asbestos manufacturers. Not only were manufacturers aware of asbestos cancer prior to 1970, they had been aware of asbestos risks since the beginning of the century.
Asbestos cancer has a long latency period. It was a factor the asbestos industry has relied on.