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Asbestos Exposure Leads to Lawsuit

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Joplin, MOAn asbestos lawsuit has been filed against an electric company in Missouri, alleging employees were exposed to a risk of asbestosis, mesothelioma and other asbestos-related injuries during their employment. The lawsuit, which seeks class-action status, was filed September 13.

According to the Joplin Globe (9/19/13), the lawsuit alleges Empire District Electric Co. knew it was exposing employees at a power plant to asbestos and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) but did not provide those employees with adequate training or safety gear to handle the hazardous materials. Furthermore, the lawsuit claims that employees were asked to remove dangerous materials, such as asbestos insulation, in such a way that they would not be found.

According to the lawsuit (court documents can be found at koamtv.com), Empire knowingly exposed employees to hazardous materials, “without implementing precautionary measures to protect them from acquiring an occupational disease.”

Employees were allegedly exposed to asbestos as it peeled and flaked from pipes, ducts and wires around the plant. They were also assigned tasks to deal with scrap and hazardous materials as the plant was converted from coal to natural gas. The plaintiff, Les Rider, was allegedly tasked with unwinding insulated wire from large spools so they could be disposed of separately. “As Rider unwound the wire, the insulation began to crack and flake off,” the lawsuit alleges. “An inspection revealed that the insulation was made of asbestos. Nonetheless, Rider and other Empire employees were instructed to continue with their efforts to make these materials ‘disappear.’”

Rider claims that the actions of his employer either have or are likely to cause injury to him and other members of the class. That injury includes a “significantly increased risk of contracting cancer and other diseases relative to what would be the case in the absence of exposure to known carcinogens.” The lawsuit claims Empire knew or should have known about the asbestos in the plant and that there was a risk that the asbestos would be released into the air during the plant’s conversion.

The lawsuit (case number 1390-CC00284, in the circuit court of Jasper County, Missouri) seeks compensatory damages and medical monitoring for class members to determine whether exposure to the hazardous substances caused any illness.

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READER COMMENTS

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To whom it may concern.

My father was exposed to asbestos; he died of lung cancer in 1973. Are his surviving children eligible for settlement? I can provide proof he worked in the shipyard and died of lung cancer. I remember my mother discussing his condition with the doctor; I was 13 years old and with her during the conversation. The doctor said, “He must have been a heavy smoker”. My mother told the doctor, “He was not a heavy smoker, but he worked in the shipyard as a welder”. “That explains it”, said the doctor. If we are not eligible for settlement, can you explain why not?

Thank you very much for your time.

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