A 77 year old woman from Norfolk, Virginia with asbestos cancer has been awarded compensation from her former employer after a state court ruled that she was exposed to asbestos dust when she worked as a funeral arranger.
The woman’s name is Winifred Goldstone, and she was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a cancer of the lungs in April 2106. She worked for 40 years as a funeral arranger for Eric W. Witton Funeral Services, based in Heacham VA.
The judgement was given against the current owner of the facility, which is Dignity Funerals, who took over the site in 1989. Her employment was transferred to the new company, and the judge ruled that they were liable for her injuries.
The woman started to work at Eric W Witton as a secretary in 1975. This was before she started to arrange funerals at the Station Road facility. That workplace also contained a workshop for a building business. Goldstone was required to clean the workshop, and this involved sweeping up dust from where asbestos-containing materials were cut.
According to the written ruling, the judge stated that the woman was exposed to deadly asbestos through asbestos that was in the walls of the building and also in doing clean up work for the carpentry business. The funeral parlor argued that the liability for her mesothelioma was only due to the work in the workshop. They argued that that part of the business was not transferred in 1989. The judge however made it clear that she also was exposed to asbestos when she worked as a funeral arranger, even if the other business was separate.
According to her attorney, the woman worked for 40 years in a job she loved, and was required to do more than she was paid to do. For all of her work, she was exposed to asbestos, and this gave her deadly mesothelioma.
The woman noted that she is 77 years old, and she loved the work that she did. She knows all of the local families and they often would come and talk to her about the funeral that she had arranged for a family member many years ago. She has been devastated to have to give up that work.
Her amount of compensation will be decided in a Dec. 15, 2016 hearing.
Companies Often Knew And Did Nothing
Many companies have been shown over the years to have known that asbestos was very dangerous, but because of cost reasons, they often did not do anything. Hundreds of thousands of people over the years have developed asbestos cancers and many have died, even though the companies they worked for often knew of the dangers.
It has been known since the early 20th century that exposure to asbestos could be deadly. Even as early as 1918, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics found that there was a higher mortality rate in the asbestos business. In 1930, the term ‘asbestos’ first was used. As of today, the use of asbestos is banned in 50 countries, but it is still used in some places today.
As early as 1948, the first memos were sent out at some companies that asbestos was deadly and could kill. There were memos issued by Exxon in 1949 and by National Gypsum in 1958 that determined that inhaling of asbestos fibers could lead to asbestosis and mesothelioma.
It has been found that many companies knew of the problems that asbestos could cause, but they decided to hide this information. One particularly nasty memo from Bendix Corporation stated that, if you have enjoyed a good life from working with asbestos, why not die from it?
Bendix later became Honeywell, which now is a supporter of the FACT Act, which intends to protect asbestos manufacturers from lawsuits. There were other companies that knew they had broken OSHA rules and wrote that they intended to investigate asbestos violation, but they did not ever tell their employees.
Still other companies knew that having asbestos in car parts could be deadly but they would not get rid of the substance because of cost. Ford stated that it was too much to spend $1.25 to not have asbestos in brakes anymore, so they continued to manufacture brake pads with asbestos.
Companies also tried to discourage the media from writing negative stories about asbestos. However, in 1980, the first asbestos lawsuits started against major corporations in the US. Gypsum Company was first sued for exposing students and teachers in school buildings, and many more lawsuits followed.
There has been an effort for 70 years to cover up asbestos dangers, but today, many companies have had to pay the price in lawsuits.