Asbestos exposure is directly linked to mesothelioma, a rare type of cancer that is caused only by asbestos. However, exposure to airborne asbestos particles has also been shown to cause lung cancer. Mesothelioma and lung cancer are somewhat similar in that they both involve the lungs and respiratory system, they are distinctly different types of cancer that originate from different tissue.
Any who had significant occupational exposure to asbestos and was subsequently diagnosed with lung cancer may be able to file an asbestos lung cancer lawsuit and get financial compensation. The product liability lawyers at Miller & Zois are currently seeking and accepting asbestos lung cancer cases from anyone who meets these criteria. If you developed lung cancer after years of asbestos exposure, call us at 800-553-8082.
Lung Cancer vs. Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma is a rare cancer type that is known to be caused by asbestos exposure. Mesothelioma and lung cancer are similar to the extent that they both involve the lungs and they often have very similar symptoms. They are, however, two very different cancers that originate in different internal tissues within the body.
All lung cancers originate in the lung tissue. By contrast, mesothelioma originates in the mesothelium, which is an internal membrane that surrounds the outside of certain internal organs (including the lungs). The most common form of mesothelioma, pleural mesothelioma, originates in the mesothelium surrounding the lungs.
Another distinct difference between lung cancer and mesothelioma is that lung cancer is very common, whereas mesothelioma is exceedingly rare. Lung cancer is actually the 2nd most common cancer type in the U.S., with over 230,000 new cases diagnosed each year. By comparison, mesothelioma is one of the rarest cancer types. Less than 3,000 cases of mesothelioma were diagnosed in 2022.
The final big difference between lung cancer and mesothelioma is that lung cancer is linked to a number of environmental factors, most significantly smoking cigarettes. Mesothelioma, however, is unique in that it is only known to be caused by exposure to asbestos. For this reason, establishing causation in asbestos cases involving lung cancer is harder.
Link Between Asbestos and Lung Cancer
Asbestos, once lauded for its heat resistance and insulating capabilities, has been conclusively linked to lung cancer due to the nature of its fine fibers. When these fibers are inhaled, they can penetrate deep into the lung tissue. The unique shape and size of asbestos fibers make them difficult to be expelled from the lungs, resulting in prolonged retention. Over time, this sustained presence causes chronic inflammation and significant cellular damage.
One of the sinister mechanisms through which asbestos induces harm is by directly damaging the DNA of lung cells, potentially leading to mutations that can initiate cancerous growth. Moreover, asbestos can generate free radicals, which are reactive molecules known to cause further damage to cellular structures, amplifying the risk of cancer.
The relationship between asbestos exposure and lung cancer becomes even more pronounced when combined with tobacco smoking. Together, they don’t just add up their individual risks, but instead exhibit a synergistic effect. This means the combined risk of lung cancer from both asbestos exposure and smoking is significantly greater than the sum of their individual risks.
Epidemiological studies have been paramount in establishing the link between asbestos and lung cancer. For example, a comprehensive analysis of asbestos insulation workers across the US, UK, and Canada found that these individuals faced a risk of lung cancer that was five times higher than that of the general population. Similarly, an investigation into shipyard workers disclosed that even if they did not smoke, their exposure to asbestos led to markedly increased rates of lung cancer. Such consistent findings from large-scale studies have been crucial in corroborating clinical and cellular observations about the dangers of asbestos.
Recognizing the overwhelming evidence, major health organizations globally, including the World Health Organization (WHO), have classified asbestos as a human carcinogen. The cumulative evidence from both cellular mechanisms and population-based studies solidifies the undeniable connection between asbestos exposure and the incidence of lung cancer.
Occupational exposure to asbestos has been shown to significantly increase the risk of developing lung cancer. Studies have shown that non-smokers with a history of asbestos exposure are five times more likely to develop lung cancer compared to those without asbestos exposure.
Smoking has also been shown to increase the risk of lung cancer. A person who smokes is 20 times more likely to develop lung cancer compared to a non-smoker. When asbestos exposure is combined with smoking, it significantly enhances the risk of lung cancer. Smokers with asbestos exposure are 50 times more likely to develop lung cancer.
How Can Doctors Determine if Lung Cancer is Related to Asbestos
It is not actually possible for doctors to say for certain what the cause of a patient’s lung cancer is. There are obviously known and established risk factors (including smoking and asbestos), but there is no definitive diagnostic tool or test to say for certain what caused a particular case of lung cancer.
Doctors can, however, make a determination that a lung cancer case is “asbestos-related” based on the presence of certain factors. The following circumstances or factors are generally used to categorize lung cancer as asbestos-related:
- The patient has evidence of asbestosis (unique scarring of the lung tissue known to be caused by asbestos exposure). This is probably the most important fact because it can definitively establish asbestos exposure.
- Changes in the pleura that are indicative of asbestos exposure
- Presence of asbestos fibers in the lungs.
- Known history of asbestos exposure within the last 10 years.
Who Qualifies for an Asbestos Lung Cancer Lawsuit?
Anyone who had significant exposure to airborne asbestos fibers and was subsequently diagnosed with lung cancer might be eligible to file an asbestos lung cancer lawsuit and get compensation. Plaintiffs with the best chances of success in an asbestos lung cancer lawsuit, however, would be those who meet the following criteria:
- Occupational Asbestos Exposure: The best plaintiffs are those with a documented history of significant occupational asbestos exposure. This usually means people who worked with or around asbestos and can document that fact with employment records or something of that nature.
- Diagnosis With “Asbestos-Related” Lung Cancer: Plaintiffs with strong cases usually have a medical diagnosis indicating that their lung cancer is “asbestos-related.” As discussed above, doctors make this determination based on the presence of certain criteria.
- Absence of Risk Factors: Plaintiffs with no history of smoking or other risk factors have somewhat stronger cases. However, plaintiffs who smoked can still bring asbestos lung cancer lawsuits.
Can I Bring an Asbestos Lung Cancer Lawsuit If I Was a Smoker?
In recent years, there’s been a surge in lung cancer cases tied to purported asbestos exposure, many involving plaintiffs with significant smoking histories. The pivotal factor in these cases is determining if the asbestos product played a significant role in causing harm.
You saw in the World Trade Center verdict above that juries will still award smokers high compensation in these cases. The settlement amounts and jury payouts you see in smoker lung cancer asbestos verdicts can be influenced by jurisdiction-specific rules concerning comparative or contributory negligence, strict liability, and methods of apportioning damages. For instance, in states that employ comparative fault, a plaintiff’s smoking history could potentially reduce the judgment against the defendant. Yet, in jurisdictions that employ contributory negligence but do not allow it as a defense in strict liability claims, defendants may be held fully liable. So given the varying legal standards and the evolving nature of scientific research on the interplay between asbestos exposure and smoking, each case’s merits and outcomes can differ significantly.
Settlement Value of Asbestos Lung Cancer
Asbestos lung cancer cases have an average settlement value range of $150,000 to $400,000. This is significantly lower than the settlement value of asbestos mesothelioma cases because proving causation in lung cancer claims is much more difficult. This drives down the settlement value of lung cancer cases.
Asbestos Lung Cancer Verdicts and Settlements
Below are representative verdicts and settlements in asbestos lung cancer cases.
- $38,000,000 Verdict (New York 2023): A 66-year-old plaintiff, who had worked in removing commercial boilers during the 1970s and 80s, was diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer in 2017, despite not displaying other typical asbestos-related conditions. His exposure to asbestos was alleged to be from boilers produced by Burnham LLC. Facing these claims, a Manhattan jury found Burnham LLC 85% at fault and awarded the plaintiff compensatory and punitive damages totaling $38 million. This sum incorporated $6.6 million for past pain and suffering, $19.9 million for future pain and suffering, and an additional $5 million awarded to the plaintiff’s wife for loss of consortium. The verdict also included a notable $6.5 million in punitive damages.
- $28,500,000 Verdict (New York 2023): A former worker at the World Trade Center, affiliated with a steamfitters union, was diagnosed with lung cancer which he attributed to asbestos exposure during his tenure at the iconic location. The defendants in the case were connected to the worker’s employment and duties at the World Trade Center. After considering expert testimonies from the fields of occupational medicine, pathology, and internal medicine, a Manhattan jury apportioned liability: one plastering company at 30%, a realty and construction firm at 15%, and a prominent transportation and infrastructure authority at 25%. The worker was awarded a total of $28.5 million, split as $13.5 million for past pain and suffering and $15 million for future pain and suffering. Several non-party entities were also implicated in the exposure, but the central focus remained on the main defendants, with the jury highlighting their “reckless disregard” for the worker’s safety.
- $250,000 Verdict (California 2023): An 85-year-old male plasterer died from lung cancer, asbestosis, and pleural disease after occupational exposure to asbestos-containing products from defendants Kaiser Gypsum Company Inc. and Hanson Permanente Cement Inc. Settlement value was lower because of the decedent’s age.
- $975,500 Verdict (California 2022): The plaintiff reportedly developed lung cancer and asbestosis after occupational exposure to asbestos-containing gun plastic cement manufactured, distributed, and sold by defendant CalPortland Company and stage and theater lamps produced, distributed, and marketed by defendants Mole-Richardson Co. Ltd. and Mole-Richardson Rentals. His exposure to asbestos-containing products reportedly occurred while he worked as a set lighting technician at movie and television studios from 1959 to 2001.
- $12,500,000 Verdict (New York 2020): An adult male mechanic, died after he developed lung cancer allegedly from asbestos products manufactured and/or sold by defendant Caterpillar Inc. and was diagnosed with lung cancer. The plaintiff’s estate contended the defendant was negligent in manufacturing and/or selling the asbestos-containing products without adequate warnings about the health hazards associated with the asbestos in its products.
- $6,400,000 Verdict (Pennsylvania 2019): The lawsuit claimed that the decedent developed lung cancer as a result of exposure to asbestos from products manufactured and sold by defendants John Crane, Inc., and Brand Insulation, Inc. The plaintiffs contended the defendants designed a defective product, the product was not reasonably safe for its intended use, and they failed to warn of the dangers of asbestos. They also contended the defendants were strictly liable.
Contact Us About Your Asbestos Lung Cancer Lawsuit
If you (or a family member) have been diagnosed with asbestos-related lung cancer and want to get compensation, contact our national asbestos lawyers today for a free consultation at 800-553-8082.