"The diagnosis rate for mesothelioma in the US has remained constant for years, and is projected to be constant for years to come," says Angelides, whose firm Simmons, Browder, Gianaris, Angelides & Barnerd has represented hundreds of clients affected by mesothelioma in every state in the US. "This was a 100 percent preventable disease. There were plenty of asbestos-free substitutes and alternatives but companies chose not to use them."
Most of the mesothelioma personal injury and wrongful death suits involve workers who were exposed to asbestos in workplace settings, but there are a growing number of victims with secondary asbestos exposure, or take-home exposure, as Angelides calls it.
Those deadly asbestos fibers are so tiny that they cannot be seen with the naked eye,
You don't need a cloud of asbestos to be exposed to a lethal amounthe adds.
Workers often bring those fibers home on their bodies and on their clothes, and then contaminate their spouses and children. "They may give their spouse or their children a hug, or contaminate other family members when the clothes are handled at laundry time," says Angelides.
The fibers could also be spread to the furniture, or the car or the closet. The possibilities are practically endless.
"It takes anywhere from 10 to 50 years to develop mesothelioma after exposure," says Angelides, "and many, many spouses and children are developing the disease."
The Simmons firm recently won an important case on behalf of the take-home victims of asbestos. In June, the 5th District Appellate Court of Illinois ruled that employers have a duty to warn the families of their employees about the dangers of take-home asbestos exposure.
Some states do not recognize the "take-home" duty of some manufacturers and employers, explains Angelides. "These are definitely harder cases to win, compared to someone who has had direct hands-on exposure. There is no doubt about it," says Angelides. "But the medical literature exists and the studies exist to show that take-home exposure can actually happen. How much that initial person was directly exposed may influence the strength of the case."
The firm has won a number of take-home cases over the last 10 years.
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"There are 2,500 to 3,000 cases in the US per year, and because peak use of asbestos in the US didn't come about until the late 70s, you are still going to see thousands and thousands of US citizens develop mesothelioma."
"It is a very unfortunate situation," adds Angelides.
Michael Angelides is the managing partner of Simmons, Browder, Gianaris, Angelides & Barnerd, one of the largest and best-known asbestos/mesothelioma firms in the US. Angelides has recovered millions of dollars on behalf of clients affected by asbestos and mesothelioma. He is a frequent speaker at asbestos conferences. The firm also handles other types of cases, including personal injury, pharmaceutical litigation, intellectual property litigation and benzene exposure.