And The Verdict Is . . .

I don’t know! That’s right – don’t know! The case settled out of court!

But here’s what I can tell you:

My case was a product liability case about asbestos. Long story, short:

  • The gentleman bringing the law suit died of a lung cancer called mesthelioma – he died before the case came to court, so his family continued in that effort.
  • Asbestos causes that cancer – everyone agreed to that.
  • Asbestos comes in TWO general types – long fiber and short fiber. Both are toxic and cause cancer.
  • The longer ones persist in the body, while the shorter ones don’t.
  • The man who passed away had multiple exposures – some from dry wall work and some from working in a smelter.

The case settled after the expert witnesses for the prosecution – the team that was bringing the law suit – so I didn’t get to hear the other half of the story. But here’s how the case was shaping up:

  • Did he have ENOUGH exposure of the asbestos that was in the dry wall stuff to cause cancer?
  • Did the makers of those products know that asbestos causes cancer?
  • If they didn’t know, should they have known?
  • Did it matter that when he died they couldn’t find any of those shorter fibers?
  • If those products DID cause the cancer and if those makers DID know that – should they be made to pay a hefty settlement?

I have to tell you – I find this pretty engaging. I like to think that we live in a blended world, where we take responsibility for our actions, but where we also experience mercy and the benefit of the doubt when our actions are under informed. In this case – I don’t know enough to know how I may have rendered a verdict.  I DO know that some of the folks on the jury already felt like:

  • There is too much litigation
  • That corporations shouldn’t be held accountable for stuff that happened 30 or 40 years ago
  • That the only folks that make out are the trial lawyers

I don’t agree with any of those statements – history has shown that corporations don’t often choose behavior based on anything save a profit margin. Lately, we’ve seen that corporations choose a short term profit margin as well – without much thought for long term business profitability.

At the same time – personal responsibility matters. For instance – if I were to take up cigarette smoking tomorrow – I’d pretty much feel like my options for suing big tobacco were nil. We know (and cigarettes are labeled) so much more than we did in the 70’s and 80’s and 90’s – that if I wanted to assume that risk it would be all mine.

If corporations don’t often act on behalf of the community – then how do we ask them to raise their standards? Legal actions that aren’t law suits?

Do trial lawyers make a ton of money? I don’t know – perhaps they do. Do they win enough verdicts so that they can continue to try and hold corporations accountable, or are they out for their own slice of the pie, no matter what? I’d love to know the answers to those questions!

In the meantime – don’t expect to see me working on a home remodel without a great re-breathing mask!


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