Kansas Inmate’s Asbestos Lawsuit To Proceed

The Kansas Supreme Court revived a lawsuit in December 2016 of a Lansing KS Correctional Facility inmate who states that he will die a premature death from being exposed to asbestos in the prison library.

The lawsuit states that from 1997 to 2010, Jeffrey Sperry spent most of his day in the LCF law library official source. When guards would search the library for contraband every week, insulation that contained asbestos fell on his desk and work area. The prisoner claims that he did not know that it was asbestos, and he would wipe it away without using protective gear.

Friable asbestos fibers, when they are inhaled, can get stuck in the lung lining and digestive tract. This can lead to lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis.

In 2010, the DPA stated that the the Lansing Correctional Facility had violated the Clean Air Act when it move asbestos debris at the facility. This caused there to be an audit by the Kansas Department of Corrections that determined that asbestos abatement was needed at the library where Sperry worked.

What Are the Different Types of Asbestos?

The word ‘asbestos’ is a general term that describes six different types of asbestos:

  • Actinolite
  • Antroophylite
  • Tremolite
  • Crocidolite
  • Amosite
  • Chrysotile

These six types of asbestos describe all of the unique fibers that make up asbestos. The Toxic Substances Control Act states that all of them are classified as asbestos.

The most common type used in most industrial purposes is chrysotile asbestos. It is in use today, and is considered the ‘safest’ type of asbestos. This type of asbestos is encapsulated in cement or resin and is used for many different industrial applications. It takes a great deal of exposure to become ill from chrysotile asbestos, but it still can be deadly if it is not properly encapsulated.

Amosite asbestos is thought of as the second most-deadly type of asbestos. It is referred to as brown asbestos and was mined mostly in South Africa. It is no longer mined today. Brown asbestos once was used to insulate pipes and cement sheet. It also was commonly used in insulating boards.

Crocidolite asbestos is typically in blue, straight fibers and is the most dangerous type of the mineral. It is referred to as blue asbestos and is found in Australia and Bolivia. It was often used for steam engine insulation and for many cement products.

Tremolite asbestos is a less known type but it could be the underlying cause of many illnesses, such as lupus, psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Anthophyllite asbestos is brown, gray and off white. It is most often found in Finland, and was often used in composite flooring for residential and commercial uses.

Actinolite asbestos is a green shade and is made largely of iron. It is a harsher form of asbestos and was not used often for commercial purposes.

While some types of asbestos are ‘safer’ than others, none of them are safe if they are exposed to the open air. If you believe that you were exposed to any type of asbestos that has led to a health problem, you should be seen by a qualified medical professional immediately. You also should consult with an asbestos attorney to determine if you have a legal case.

Sperry sought medical treatment once he knew about the asbestos, and he states in the Mesothelioma lawsuit that the doctor told him there was nothing to be done. He also tried to get mental health counseling, but he stated that the psychologist told him that he should not be worried that he could die an early death.

Sperry has not shown signs of developing an asbestos-related disease, according to any health care professional who has examined him. Nonetheless, Sperry has continued to argue in his lawsuit that the state should remove the asbestos from his workplace. He also has stated that he is suffering mental stress and harm from worrying that he may develop an asbestos-related condition later in life.

Sperry worked without an attorney for years and filed grievances with the state’s department of corrections. They were denied first by a warden and then by the secretary of the KDOC. He then took his claims to Leavenworth County District Court, where the KDOC tried to have them dismissed.

The judge dismissed the lawsuit because the man failed to file the complaint within 10 days of exposure. Sperry then filed an appeal. He claimed that he had filed the grievance after he learned that he was exposed to asbestos, although it was the wrong form. He said it was the prison’s fault that it did not have the right form.

Sperry wants an injunction that would require KDOC to provide for his medical needs at any facility he chooses. He also seeks an injunction that orders KDOC to remove the asbestos from the prison library. Further, he seeks more than $75,000 in damages.

The US Supreme Court recently ruled that inmates have to exhaust all administrative complaints before they file suit, but they need not prove that they have done this. So, the ruling effectively undercuts a primary KDOC argument – that Sperry didn’t prove that he filed all of his possible administrative complaints.

The asbestos case went to the Kansas Supreme Court, which ruled that the judge at Leavenworth had erred when he threw out the lawsuit for procedural reasons. Now the case goes back to Leavenworth County District Court for more deliberations.