66-year-old Charles H. Cundiff, a former U.S. Navy machinist who is now suffering from mesothelioma has been awarded $12.1 million by a Los Angeles County jury on last Monday.
Asbestos is the most common cause of mesothelioma. When asbestos is disturbed or damaged, it releases tiny fibres that can be breathed into the lungs. Asbestos fibres are very fine and, when breathed in, they can make their way into the smallest airways of the lung, so they cannot be breathed or coughed out. Once the fibres are in the lungs, the body’s defence mechanism tries to break them down and remove them, which leads to inflammation in the lung tissue.
The former U.S. Navy machinist, became terminally ill due to asbestos exposure while working on a naval ship in the 1960s. Cundiff handled Insulag cement in the overhauling of the USS Kitty Hawk that lasted nine months during his Navy tour from 1962 to 1966.
The jury ruled that the manufacturer and supplier of the asbestos product have to pay $10 million for pain and suffering and $506,000 in economic damages for lost wages because he is now afflicted with mesothelioma. His wife was awarded $1.5 million for loss of consortium.
The suit alleges John Crane, Inc., which made Insulag, and Lone Star Industries, which delivered the asbestos-laced insulating cement to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, made a defective product and failed to warn Cundiff of its health hazard.
The asbestos fibres can also penetrate through the lung tissue to settle in the pleura (the membrane around the lung). Over many years they can cause mesothelioma or other lung diseases to develop.
The people most likely to have been exposed to asbestos include: construction workers,plumbers, electricians, boilermakers, shipbuilders, demolition workers and also people who worked in other places where asbestos was present and people who lived near to asbestos factories.