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Mesothelioma: Such a Nasty Way to Die

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Novato, CAFrom initial diagnosis to death, on average, mesothelioma patients live just 18 months. It means that many of attorney James Nevin's clients do not live to see their cases resolved and their families are left to fight the battle against the companies and the mines that produced millions of tonnes of asbestos that made its way into factories and shipyards and eventually into the lungs of American workers.

MesotheliomaA jury in San Francisco recently deliberated for just one day before it returned a combined verdict of $3.4 million in favor of 59-year-old Richard Worthley Sr., a Vietnam veteran and former asbestos worker for Johns-Manley in Illinois. Unfortunately, like so many others, mesothelioma had already killed Worthley. "In the Worthley case it started out as a personal injury case when he was still alive, but he passed on before it was resolved and it became a wrongful death case and his family continued to pursue it. It is a very sad situation," says Nevin.

Tumors Crush the Lungs

Mesothelioma is a fatal form of lung cancer most commonly affecting people who have worked around asbestos materials in industrial workplaces such as shipyards, electrical plants, construction sites, mining and textile plants. Although the dangers of asbestos are now widely known and its use has been almost eliminated, it is still used in the production of brake pads and other products.

It may take decades before the exposure to asbestos turns into shortness of breath and chest pain and the mesothelioma diagnosis is made. "It is a brutal, nasty way to die," says Nevin. "The tumor starts growing in that very thin membrane that surrounds the lungs. It is a very aggressive form of cancer that can easily spread into the lining around the heart. Mesothelioma patients in their final days are in intense pain as their lungs are literally crushed by the tumors."

Asbestos Doesn't Burn, But It Does Kill

Mesothelioma is extremely rare. "Only 3000 cases a year are diagnosed in the US," says Nevin. "Some doctors may work their whole careers without ever seeing a case." However, some places in the country, such as the San Francisco area where Nevin practices, have very high rates of mesothelioma.

"We started seeing large numbers of former military people in California with mesothelioma in the early 1980s," says Nevin. "Many of them had worked in the shipyards in the San Francisco area. During the World War II era and up until the 1970s asbestos was used to insulate pipes on ships. Anyone working on those ships or even been transported on those ships would have been exposed to asbestos."

Nevin's firm of Brayton and Purcell has handled hundreds of asbestos-related personal injury and wrongful death cases over the last 24 years. Because of the long latency period and because asbestos was so commonly used until the late 70s, Nevin expects to see more cases of mesothelioma and asbestos-related diseases rather than fewer as time goes on.

James Nevin is an associate with Brayton Purcell in Novato, California. He is a graduate of the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law (2002) and Stanford University (1998). He practices law exclusively on behalf of mesothelioma victims and their families.

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