Fisher Scientific’s Duty to Warn Customers of the Dangers of Asbestos Exposure – The Buck Stops Here

fisher-scientific-lawsuitIn a recent deposition, the former corporate safety director for Fisher Scientific - a man who testified that “the buck stopped with me” regarding the determination of whether any danger or hazard existed with any product that Fisher Scientific supplied to its customers – was questioned under oath about when did Fisher know about the dangers of asbestos and when if at all did it warn its customers.

Here is just a sampling of what  in our opinion  this deposition revealed . The entire deposition is posted on this site for you to draw your own conclusions  :

  • Regarding Fisher Scientific’s expertise on asbestos and its dangers?  The witness testified that he was the only person in the Corporate Safety Department, and stated repeatedly that he was not an expert on the issue of asbestos, and neither was anybody else at Fisher Scientific.  The witness testified that he’d never taken a single safety course that related to asbestos.
  • Regarding Fisher Scientific’s interest in making sure that the asbestos-containing items it sold in its catalogs were safe?  The witness testified that he never asked any supplier to the catalog of asbestos-containing products to prove that the products were safe for their intended uses, and he has no idea if the manufacturers ever conducted tests on the products.
  • Regarding education of Fisher Scientific’s sales staff?  The witness testified that he never spoke to the sales staff about asbestos.
  • Regarding his responses to a 1978 letter from concerned 7th grade school children worried that asbestos pads in the classroom might cause cancer? The testimony given by the witness as to how he would have responded to such “straightforward” questions from school children was painfully at odds with the responses actually provided to the children by the witness in 1978.
  • Regarding the impermissible use of language such as “OSHA Approved” “Meets OSHA Requirements” in Fisher Scientific’s catalogues?  The witness, during questioning by Fisher Scientific’s counsel, described the use of such language as “a lie so don’t say it.”
  • Regarding a 1978 letter to an OSHA Regional Administrator in which he states that several asbestos containing laboratory products do not ordinarily liberate airborne fibers – but can experience dusting through age and usage?  The witness testified that although the letter was signed by him, he was unfamiliar with the term “dusting” and believed the marketing department had “infused their language” with his letter.
  • Regarding monitoring of asbestos containing laboratory products (to determine whether they liberate asbestos fibers) prior to their entrance in the marketplace?  The witness testified that no monitoring was ever done during his tenure “because there’s no need to” including in the plants where Fisher Scientific manufactured asbestos-containing products.
  • Regarding corporate responsibility?  “If we gave you cancer, then we’re responsible.  If we didn’t give you cancer, we’re not responsible.” and “If I harmed you then I owe you; If I haven’t harmed you then leave me alone.”

You can read and decide in your own opinion as to the adequacy of Fisher Scientific’s understanding of its responsibility to warn customers of the dangers of exposure to asbestos.  Click here to read the entire deposition.

Gordon and Emily Bankhead of California Awarded $13.5 million: All Four Defendants, Pneumo Abex, Arvin Meritor, and Co-Defendant Carlisle Corporation (which resolved before Phase 2), Acted with Malice, Fraud and Oppression, According to Court Documents

On January 6, 2011 an Oakland jury returned a verdict awarding Mr. Gordon Bankhead and his wife, Emily Bankhead $13.5 million dollars during a second phase verdict assessing punitive damages against Phuemo Abex LLC ($9 million) and Arvin Meritor/Rockwell ($4.5 million). In the first phase of the trial, completed on December 22, the jury awarded $3.9 million in compensatory damages, and found that all four defendants, Pneumo Abex, Arvin Meritor, and co-defendant Carlisle Corporation (which resolved before Phase 2), acted with malice, fraud and oppression, warranting the second phase determination.

From 1965 – 1999 Gordon Bankhead was a parts worker who unpacked heavy duty truck brakes at a container seaport, Sea-land Shipping Company in Oakland, California. He was exposed to asbestos-containing brakes during the course of his work. He was present during the inspections, replacements, grindings and blowing out of asbestos dust. All of these activities caused him to breathe deadly asbestos dust.

Several lawsuits across the U.S. have been and continue to be filed against brake lining manufacturers Abex and Carlisle. In this case, they manufactured the vast majority of the brake linings Mr. Bankhead was exposed to, which in turn Rockwell and Fruehauf attached to brake shoes and axles that were sold to Mr. Bankhead’s employers.

The number of miners, millers, factory workers, insulators, Navy-men and shipyard workers, some of whom began filing workers’ compensation claims as far back as the 1930s, continues to rise. The modern era of asbestos lawsuits began in the 1970s with claims from these same groups of workers.

According to a Press Release that was sent out “Evidence at trial showed that Pneumo Abex had been aware of the deadly health effects of breathing asbestos dust since at least the 1940s, but that Pneumo Abex did not begin warning its customers of those effects, if at all, until years after Mr. Bankhead was exposed to the asbestos-containing brakes it made and sold. Abex and Carlisle were involved in discussions within the Friction Materials Standards Institute in the 1970s about whether to warn about the health hazards from its brakes. Rockwell knew starting in the early 1970s that its employees were exposed to dust from Abex and Carlisle brakes, but did nothing to warn its customers of the same hazards. As early as 1977, Rockwell learned that one of its employees who handled brakes was diagnosed with mesothelioma, the same disease Mr. Bankhead developed. Despite their knowledge of the hazards of asbestos, Carlisle and Pneumo Abex continued to sell asbestos-containing brakes until 1987; Rockwell did not cease selling asbestos brakes until 2000.”

Gordon Bankhead is among hundreds of former parts workers, mechanics, automotive and body shop employees known to have developed mesothelioma after working on brakes, clutches and gaskets, which contained the most common form of the mineral — chrysotile, or white, asbestos — well into the 1990s. Many have sued auto manufacturers and parts makers, litigation that reflects the unceasing burden of asbestos disease in the United States, and many of the U.S. top manufacturers have used asbestos-containing brakes, linings, or gaskets at one time or another, and many continue to do so.

The fact that asbestos causes mesothelioma and that corporations continue to use asbestos-containing products in the manufacturing, service or repair of brake linings is unconscionable. According to The World Health Organization “(1) all types of asbestos cause asbestosis, mesothelioma, and lung cancer; (2) there is no safe threshold level of exposure; (3) safer substitutes exist; (4) exposure of workers and other users of asbestos-containing products is extremely difficult to control; and (5) asbestos abatement is very costly and difficult to carry out in a completely safe way.”

Dr. Richard Lemen, a retired Assistant Surgeon General of the United States and Deputy Director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in 1996, and now a proponent against the use of toxic substances, has written that “even the so called controlled use of asbestos containing brakes poses a health risk to workers, users, and their families.” In his role as a senior public health administrator, Dr. Lemen testified regularly before Congress on issues related to toxic substances, including asbestos. “Another 270,000 to 330,000 deaths are expected to occur over the next 30 years,” he told a Senate committee in 2007.
In court now, aside from a few heavily exposed claimants, are mechanics, teachers from asbestos-filled schools and the wives, relatives, friends, and children of workers who brought home asbestos on their clothing. Most of these people had relatively light exposures and developed mesothelioma, a disease that can take more than 50 years to appear in some cases.

In 1948, a newsletter from the National Safety Council, a public service organization, cautioned, “Asbestos used in the formulation of brake lining is a potentially harmful compound.” A bulletin the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health issued in 1975 warned that brake work could produce “significant exposures” to asbestos and recommended that employers use dust-control measures. Nearly 1 million workers were at risk, the institute said. It held meetings on the subject in 1975 and 1976; among those present were representatives of Ford, GM and Johns Manville, then the nation’s biggest manufacturer of asbestos products.

Experts say that the current U.S. workplace standard for asbestos — 0.1 fiber per cubic centimeter of air, which the Occupational Safety and Health Administration adopted in 1994 — still allows a worker to inhale more than 1 million fibers over the course of a day. The CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health estimates that exposures at this level will produce five lung cancer deaths and two asbestosis deaths for every 1,000 workers over a lifetime. Federal officials think that 1.3 million workers in general industry and construction and 45,000 miners are still exposed to asbestos in the U.S.

Warnings about asbestos in brakes go back decades and remain in effect. In this case, we congratulate the jury for awarding this family some justice.

(Parts of this blog entry refers back to an article titled “Dangers in the Dust,” a joint investigation by the BBC’s International News Services and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. The consortium is a collaboration of some of the world’s top investigative reporters. Launched in 1997 as a project of The Center for Public Integrity, the consortium globally extends the center’s style of watchdog journalism, working with 100 journalists in 50 countries to produce long-term, transnational investigations.)

Shame on Canada- Is the Money Really Worth the Cancer?

For years the Canadian asbestos mining companies have refused to pay fair compensation to US citizens whom they have poisoned for decades. They hide behind the laws of Quebec and tell US mesothelioma victims come chase us in Canada if you want just compensation. This is despite the fact that these Canadian mining companies pumped millions of tons of asbestos into the United States responsible for the death of tens of thousands of US citizens. The proof is quite clear that these companies knew about the dangers of asbestos going back to the 1930s and were actively involved in a cover up to prevent workers from learning about the true dangers associated with these products. The story below is but another example of how money in Canada has surpassed the concern for people.

LONDON – A medical journal is criticizing Canada for exporting asbestos to poor countries, joining others who have condemned the practice as hypocritical.

A report in the journal Lancet on Thursday notes that Canada virtually bans the use of asbestos. But, unlike other rich nations, it remains a major exporter of chrysotile, or white asbestos.

The Canadian Minister of Natural Resources office said its practice has a “sound scientific basis.”

Asbestos is a natural mineral which can be processed for use in rooftops, piping, or building materials. Inhaling its fibers scars the lungs and can lead to respiratory diseases, including cancers.

The World Health Organization says all types of asbestos cause cancer and more than 50 countries have banned it. About 100,000 people die every year from asbestos-related diseases and 125 million people remain exposed to the deadly substance worldwide.

Canada is the world’s fourth biggest exporter of asbestos, after Russia, Kazakhstan and Brazil. Last year, Canada shipped 150,000 tons to countries including India, Indonesia and the Philippines, where few laws exist to protect people from asbestos.

In Canada, the government has spent millions of dollars removing asbestos from buildings across the country, including its Parliament.

Numerous Canadian organizations, including the Quebec Medical Association, Canadian Cancer Society and the Canadian Medical Association have labeled Canada’s asbestos exportation as deplorable, shameful and unethical. They describe it as Prime Minister “Stephen Harper’s killer legacy.”

“Canada should not be exporting asbestos to developing nations where there are few or no workplace regulations,” Richard Horton, editor of the Lancet, said in a statement.

He called for an end to “this immoral export of asbestos-related death and disease to some of the most vulnerable people in the world.”

The report was written by the Lancet’s Tony Kirby.

With asbestos deposits dwindling in Quebec, where Canada’s asbestos is mined, the industry appeared doomed. But an international consortium proposed converting a closed mine into a new operation that could produce about 260,000 ton of white asbestos a year. Quebec is considering providing a $57 million loan guarantee for the project, according to previous published statements by the provincial government.

The international consortium that wants to reopen the mine claims Canadian asbestos is only sold to manufacturers with responsible use practices in place. Developers said all the mined asbestos would be sent abroad, with about half of it going to India. The consortium also said they would use pictures to instruct people on the safe and responsible usage of asbestos.

The office of the Canadian Minister of Natural Resources said they believe the risks linked to asbestos can be managed.

“Canada’s policy of controlled use has a sound scientific basis and is a responsible approach,” said Paul Duchesne, a spokesman for the minister in an e-mailed statement.

“Through the enforcement of appropriate regulations to rigorously control exposure to (white asbestos), the health risks associated with processes and products can be reduced to acceptable levels,” Duchesne said.

The Canadian government says the risks from white asbestos can be managed in controlled conditions, like if the substance is covered by another material so the asbestos layer is not releasing dust.

Kathleen Ruff, a senior human rights adviser to the Rideau Institute, an independent research and advocacy organization in Ottawa, said that exporting asbestos and refusing to alert poor countries to its dangers, Canada is intentionally doing harm.

In 2006, Canada led an effort to block a United Nations convention that would have made it mandatory to warn countries of hazardous substances like asbestos, she said.

“Canada has blood on its hands,” Ruff said. “What we are doing is unconscionable. The whole world should condemn us.”

Protesters plan to hit the street this week in Asia, London and Quebec, to demand a global ban on asbestos in any building materials.

DAP Executive Admits Asbestos Knowledge, No Testing and No Warnings in New Jersey Mesothelioma Case

Asbestos Found in Caulk and Spackle ProductsDAP was a manufacturer of asbestos containing caulk and spackle products. A DAP executive was questioned extensively about his companys knowledge of the dangers of asbestos and what it did in response to protect consumers. Click here to read


Asbestos Expert Testifies Concerning Company Knowledge in Mesothelioma Trial

Click here to see the testimony of world renowned asbestos expert in a mesothelioma trial testifying about company knowledge of the dangers of asbestos.


Certainteed, Mesothelioma & Asbestos Cement Pipe

We recently took the deposition of the Corporate representative of the Certainteed Corporation concerning what Certainteed knew about the dangers of asbestos, mesothelioma and what warnings were supplied in response. Rather than editorialize you may read the deposition for yourself at http://www.mesotheliomalegalblog.com/mesothelioma-litigation/Certainteed-Mesothelioma–&-Asbestos-Cement-Pipe–1-35603.

How were workers exposed to asbestos at Chevron:Read here

In this deposition we recently took Chevron admits that it did not  stop using asbestos in its Perth Amboy refinery until 1972,  more than 3 decades after learning that asbestos could kill. According to this witness there was more than 12 miles of asbestos on the piping alone in the Perth Amboy. This had the capacity to cause massive exposure to anyone in the area where asbestos was installed or removed. See http://www.mesotheliomalegalblog.com/mesothelioma-litigation/Despite-Knowledge-Chevron-Uses-Asbestos-Causing-Massive-Exposure–1-32495.html

Was Bendix Mocking Asbestos Vicitims?

In defending asbestos cases asbestos companies often argue that they were unaware of the dangers of asbestos and when they finally found out they acted responsibly.  Of course in many cases this assertion is a fiction as made clear in the letter from Bendix (manufacturer of asbestos brakes) Johns  Manville where the Bendix executive states  My answer to the problem is that if you have made a good life while working with asbestos "why not die from it"

Click on the attached link to read  the evidence for yourself. http://www.mesotheliomalegalblog.com/mesothelioma-litigation/pdf/bendix%20-%2000004290.pdf

AT&T Admits Knowledge of Asbestos Dangers

We recently had the opportunity to take the deposition of AT&T corporate representative Charles Lichtenwalner. The deposition was quite revealing as AT&T admitted knowledge of the dangers of asbestos during the time that Bell operating company employees  were being exposed to asbestos as part of their job. Draw your own conclusions by reading the deposition for yourself. In order to read a copy of the actual testimony you can click on this link www.mesotheliomalegalblog.com/mesothelioma-litigation/AT&T-Admits-Knolwedge-of-Asbestos–1-32061.html

Missouri Jury Awards 4.5 Million Dollars in Mesothelioma Case

The family of a Missouri man battled 4 companies in court over Robert Wagner’s death from mesothelioma. Eventually the jury found in the family’s favor. After 3 weeks of trial the jury found the companies Bondex and Conwed knew about that asbestos dangers but failed to warn.

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