Once the second-largest steel producer in the US, Bethlehem Steel became inundated with lawsuits beginning in the 1970s, when asbestos workers realized their problems with breathing were directly related to asbestos. Then they began to get diagnosed with lung cancers and asbestosis.
Richard’s father died from leukemia. According to asbestos.com, specific causes of leukemia are unknown; however, particular risk factors have been associated with the disease, including environmental factors such as exposure to toxic substances like asbestos. Richard says that he spoke with a Bethlehem Steel representative and they have recognized 15 different cancers and about 10 diseases related to asbestos exposure at Bethlehem Steel.
“I spoke with an attorney some time ago and she suggested that I call the Erie County Power Company—apparently they are affiliated with the bankrupt Bethlehem Steel and are taking claims,” says Richard. “The lady I talked to from the power company said there are so many families involved, but at this point they are only taking claims from people (or their families) who worked there from 1938 to 1942. My father was born in 1938 and worked there in his late teens.
"I told her that clearly, my father got sick from Bethlehem Steel asbestos, so why not include the years he worked there? She said that I wasn’t the first person to tell her this.”
Richard’s father was diagnosed with cancer when he was just 31 years old--Richard was only 11 when his dad died, but he remembers how sick his father was. “His cancer went into remission a few times but of course it came back,” says Richard. “Doctors couldn’t figure out why someone with no family history of cancer would wind up with it. Asbestos was never mentioned.”
By 2001 more than 3,000 lawsuits had been filed against the former Bethlehem Steel Corp. by workers alleging they were exposed to hazardous levels of asbestos. In January 2001 the first case settled, according to The Morning Call, Lehigh Valley. The widow of Richard Zambor, who worked at Bethlehem Steel as a carpenter and died of a lung cancer caused by asbestos, reached an agreement in Northampton County Court for an undisclosed amount. The defendants manufactured asbestos-based materials used for decades at Bethlehem Steel.
Richard’s understanding is that some kind of a trust fund has been set up for Bethlehem Steel. “The Erie Power Company sent me some forms to fill out but I would like to speak with an attorney first,” he says. “From what I understand, they are trying to give each family $150,000 to make them shut up and go away. I got that amount from a story online about Bethlehem Steel and the lawsuits filed against them. I lost my dad at a young age. I went through lots of mental anguish and counseling after he passed away—I was only 11 years old.
"My mom stayed by his side, right until he died at home. She was even on a respirator at night—she had lung problems and now I wonder if she was exposed to asbestos. My older brothers and sisters remember him coming from work and my mother washing his work clothes. To be honest, I think Bethlehem Steel wants everyone to file claims through the Erie Power Company so we won’t get lawyers involved. They can simply pay us off this stipend and move on.”
READ MORE ASBESTOS MESOTHELIOMA LEGAL NEWS
In February of 2008, a Baltimore jury awarded $15.3 million to a 73-year-old man whose terminal cancer was linked to asbestos exposure while working at Bethlehem Steel Corp.’s ship repair facility in the 1950s.
Those settlements are quite a substantial amount more than $150,000. Richard may be wise to speak with an attorney before signing any forms.