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Asbestosis Lawsuit against Carnival Corporation Considered a First

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Miami, FLThere have been numerous asbestosis compensation lawsuits from plaintiffs stricken with asbestosis disease following a lifetime of work in the shipyards, either building or maintaining ships. So it should come as no surprise that the hugely popular cruise ship industry is not immune to such claims.

To that end, an asbestosis lawsuit recently concluded favorably for the Estate of a deceased crewmember in a case against Carnival Cruise Lines in Miami. Sadly, the plaintiff did not survive his asbestosis disease. However, his family and heirs were compensated with a reduced award of $3.6 million.

The trial set a precedent, as it is believed to be the first asbestosis case against the pleasure cruise ship industry to go to trial.

Carnival is one of the most popular cruise lines, constantly adding to its fleet as cruises continue to grow as a popular vacation choice. Unseen, however, by the throng of passengers enjoying the sun, fun and various activities associated with the Carnival line, are the scores of workers tasked with the job of running the ship. Some of those workers work deep in the bowels of the vessel.

The plaintiff in the asbestosis claim was a shipboard electrician of Italian descent who toiled onboard several steamships in the Carnival fleet from 1985 through 2000. In 2001, the plaintiff was diagnosed with asbestosis disease, allegedly as a result of prolonged exposure to asbestos.

According to court documents, the man toiled aboard four different Carnival Cruise liners over a 15-year period. The focus of the plaintiff’s employment was the engine rooms and machine spaces. During trial, it was revealed by a former chief engineer with the Carnival line that asbestos was, indeed, present in the engine rooms and other operational areas where the plaintiff worked. It was also revealed that an occupational physician and a pathologist ruled that the plaintiff’s asbestosis disease was caused by asbestos exposure.

The asbestos lawsuit resulted in a nine-day trial. Following deliberation for about three-and-one-half hours, the jury found in favor of the plaintiff and initially awarded the plaintiff’s Estate $10.3 million. However, the jury also deemed the plaintiff to be 65 percent responsible for his demise given that he smoked for a period of 20 years prior to his death. Thus, the award was reduced by 65 percent to $3.6 million.

The case was Caraffa v. Carnival Corporation, Case No. 06-00964 CA 42 in the 11th Judicial Circuit in and for Miami-Dade County, Florida.

A growing source of asbestosis?

The use of asbestos has been curtailed over the decades since the carcinogenic properties of asbestos became more widely known. However, asbestos is still present in older buildings, where the insulating properties of asbestos were once highly valued. Asbestos itself, provided it remains undisturbed, is not thought to be dangerous. It is when older buildings are renovated to preserve their heritage that asbestos fibers can be disturbed, and an entire industry has emerged in response to the need for expert removal and abatement of asbestos.

It is when such care is not properly taken that asbestos exposure can occur, leading to asbestosis disease. An asbestosis claim, however, can be delayed by decades given the prolonged incubation period following exposure. Up to 30 years can pass before a victim can begin to exhibit symptoms of asbestosis lung disease. By then, it is too late.

Current claims over asbestosis exposure usually stem from employment in an industrial or manufacturing setting where asbestos was commonly used. In recent years, however, a new source of exposure has emerged in tandem with the trend toward renovating - rather than replacing - heritage buildings usually containing asbestos. When proper abatement procedures are not followed, workers and even passersby can become exposed.

It is for this reason that asbestosis pleural plaques, and resulting litigation, could remain a factor for decades to come…

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