Last week, a Chattanooga businessman pleaded guilty in federal court on charges of conspiring to violate the Clean Air Act, an offense punishable by up to $250,000 fine and five-year prison sentence. The crime: improper disposal of asbestos. The culprit: Standard Coosa-Thatcher Co.’s Chattanooga, Tennessee mill.
Yes, asbestos is still with us, as are its fibers’ dangerous health effects.
Just last month, Tennesseans Doug and Donna Satterfield won the judgment of the Tennessee Supreme Court after a long series of asbestos court battles against the aluminum manufacturer Alcoa. The Satterfields claim workplace asbestos took the life of their daughter by mesothelioma, an asbestos-caused cancer. Alcoa apparently avoided OSHA regulations by allowing employees exposed to asbestos to take home their exposed work clothes and, according to the lawsuit, Alcoa employees were never told they were working with asbestos. It wasn’t until years later when his daughter at age 23 was dying of the rare asbestos cancer was that Mr. Satterfield realized he’d exposed his newborn daughter’s delicate lungs and digestive system to asbestos whenever he rocked her in his arms after work.
The Satterfields’ daughter filed suit against Alcoa for exposing her to the asbestos that would eventually kill her. After her passing, Mr. and Mrs. Satterfield pursued the asbestos lawsuits on their daughter’s behalf. Initially, a Tennessee judge dismissed the case, but justice was found through the Tennessee Court of Appeals and, last month on their daughter’s birthday, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled in the Satterfields’ favor.
This Tennessee Supreme Court decision expands Tennessee employee protections against asbestos exposure. It provides incentives to employers to follow Tennessee and federal workplace law by holding them accountable for subsequent injuries caused by their workplace hazardous materials. It also expands liability to allow those not in direct asbestos contact to pursue claims for the injuries these companies have caused.
Asbestos exposure can cause cancer and serious respiratory diseases. Treatment for mesothelioma includes chemo and radiation, but there is no known cure. Because asbestos injury can take decades from first exposure to asbestos fibers to manifest, not all Tennessee employers are forthcoming in providing protection and/or information about asbestos-related workplace hazards.
The dangers of asbestos fiber exposure have been known for decades, yet simple preventative measures to reduce workplace exposure, and the exposure of other innocent persons who may not be on the company payroll, are too often not implemented by Tennessee companies. If you believe asbestos exposure has caused your, or a loved one’s, injuries, call 1.800.705.2121 or complete our asbestos lawyer injury form. Our injury lawyers accept asbestos cases throughout Tennessee and select cases in Georgia and Kentucky.