All over the country lawsuits are constantly taking place about asbestos. And that makes sense, since deadly diseases are caused by it, the most well known being mesothelioma, a cancer in the lungs that asbestos is the only cause for.
There are a lot of different types of courts, and asbestos courts are one of them. In New York’s Controversial Asbestos Court there was a recently dismissed lawsuit by a man named Thomas Mantovi. Mantovi claims that his cancer was caused by excess exposure to asbestos in the floor tiles of American Biltrite. He claims he was exposed to this in the 1960’s and 70’s while he was working as an insurance agent inspecting construction sites. In 2018 Mantovi died of mesothelioma. He testified against American Biltrite that he had visited sites where they were cutting and laying American Biltrite’s floor tiles. That, he says, is where he was exposed to a lot of asbestos. American Biltrite, while making its motion to dismiss, gave evidence from industrial hygienists and physicians that, although their floor tiles did contain asbestos, it was the relatively harmless chrysotile. It also was encapsulated in resin and couldn’t possibly have gotten emitted into the air in any sort of deadly form. They argued that Mantovi’s disease probably came from his time serving on U.S. Navy ships and at a Mobil refinery. A few months before this lawsuit the New York Court of Appeals changed the standards for asbestos lawsuits in the Juni v. Ford Motor Co. under Juni. Under these new standards, plaintiffs must not only show that asbestos can cause cancer as a general proposition, but also that enough asbestos was in the product that is being sued against for the disease that it caused. The decision made in the Mantovi v. American Biltrite lawsuit reflected these tighter standards. Dr. David Zhang, the plaintiffs expert, showed a report proving that Mantovi did have a history of being exposed to a lot of asbestos over time that probably all contributed to his disease. But his reports didn’t include any studies about American Biltrite’s floor tiles which Mantovi claimed caused his disease. He also made no distinction between the relatively harmless chrysotile fibers and the extremely dangerous amphibole fibers that Mantovi was also probably exposed to. This evidence didn’t meet the standards which include a mathematical estimation for how much asbestos the plaintiff was exposed to. Everyone is exposed to high amounts of asbestos in daily life. So it is necessary for the plaintiff to prove that his or her asbestos exposure was more than usual and, more importantly, prove that the exposure was caused by the product they were suing against. Justice Mendez, the judge in charge of this Mantovi v. American Biltrite lawsuit said that the “Plaintiff’s conclusory argument that Dr. Zhang’s trial testimony will rest on an ‘overwhelming scientific consensus’ is unavailing”. Defense experts have estimated that the amount of asbestos that Mantovi was exposed to by the floor tiles is such a tiny fraction of what you need to be exposed to get the disease that it couldn’t have been a significant contributor to the disease. Justice Mendez is the only judge in NYCAL who decides summary judgment motions. This court handles all the asbestos lawsuits in the five-borough New York City area and is one of the busiest asbestos courts in the country. This decision could have strong implications for lawsuits over talcum powder. Even plaintiffs say that the powder contains only trace amounts of asbestos. Johnson & Johnson, as well as other talc manufacturers, are likely to use this Mantovi v. American Biltrite decision as a template for their own motions dismissing the hundreds of lawsuits they get claiming their talc causes mesothelioma and other cancers. For these plaintiffs to prevail there needs to be evidence that the talcum powder has enough asbestos in it for a daily dusting of it to be a deadly risk. Talc manufactures show that there is no asbestos in their products which is support by numerous tests. The plaintiffs say that in the 1960s and ‘70s there was asbestos in the products. But now, under this ruling, they need to prove that there was enough back then to increase their exposure significantly above the exposure everyone else gets on a day to day basis. And why should we care about this? It seems as if the only applicable thing is that New York has a new ruling. But also, you can take the rules that they made into consideration. Because, although not at all good, everyone is exposed to asbestos on a day to day basis. Although the less you get of it the better. Because, according to this courts new standards at least, there is a point where asbestos starts to get very deadly and much more likely for you to get a disease from it. So if you think you’ve got asbestos in your home or building call us right now at 773-345-7074 to inquire about removing it!