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Exposure to asbestos can cause Mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer, and Asbestosis, a noncancerous scarring of the lungs by asbestos fibers.

Asbestos products liability lawsuits have arisen most often from two situations: 1) claims brought against suppliers of raw asbestos fiber, where employees of manufacturers of asbestos products actually or allegedly had contracted asbestos-related diseases as a result of exposure to asbestos supplied to the manufacturer, and 2) claims against manufacturers of products brought where insulators and other asbestos workers allegedly or actually had contracted asbestos-related diseases as a result of exposure to the manufactured products.

The major defense put forward by companies sued for asbestos exposure was that the company was unaware of the dangers of asbestos, though this defense doesn’t often prevail. Some manufacturers also contend that lung damage was caused by smoking, because asbestos and lung injuries are similar.

Asbestos law is a relatively new field of law. The first asbestos lawsuit was not filed until 1966. The first legal victory for an asbestosis sufferer was not until 1973. In the 1980s, however, during a wave of asbestosis cases, many companies began filing bankruptcies to avoid paying huge punitive damages. Within a few years, the entire asbestos textile industry was in bankruptcy, as were several major asbestos insulation manufacturers. Nevertheless, asbestos cases continued; instead of the manufacturers of asbestos bringing lawsuits, however, those exposed to asbestos began bringing lawsuits. Asbestos products were banned in the United States in 1989.

In more recent developments, by March 2003, the Supreme Court had ruled that mental anguish damages resulting from the fear of developing cancer may be recovered under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act by a railroad worker suffering from the actionable damage asbestosis caused by work-related exposure to asbestos. However, emotional distress damages may not be recovered under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act by disease-free asbestos-exposed workers

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates the general public’s exposure to asbestos in buildings, drinking water and the environment.

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