We’re excited to announce that our firm has obtained a $3.6 million award in favor of a seafarer who suffered from an occupational disease he developed while working aboard Carnival Cruise Line ships. This is a landmark decision for our maritime lawyers, as the case is the first cruise ship asbestos trial case in history.
The Plaintiff, a shipboard electrician from Italy, worked aboard several Carnival Cruise Line ships from 1985 through 2000 and was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2001, a result of exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is a naturally-occurring mineral that was commonly used by manufacturers, builders, and other industrial occupations due to its durability, insulation properties, and strength. When the mineral is intact, it generally poses no threat to those who are in its presence. However, if the mineral is disturbed, carcinogenic fibers are released and can cause serious – and often fatal – illnesses to those who inhale them, including lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis. The dangers are even greater when an individual experiences prolonged exposure to asbestos. And, if the individual has a history of smoking, there are synergistic effects which increase a person’s risk for lung cancer by up to 45 times over smoking alone.
Unfortunately, it can be difficult to diagnose or treat diseases related to asbestos exposure because symptoms can take many years to manifest. By the time symptoms do develop, it is often too late for the victim to obtain successful medical treatment.
After asbestos’ toxic properties were discovered in the 20th Century, several countries ceased to use asbestos in construction materials. Yet, despite this revelation, many nations and construction companies continue to use asbestos – often illegally – putting those who are exposed to the mineral at risk for disease.
Most of the time, those who come in contact with asbestos do so at their place of employment. Moreover, a large percentage of asbestos victims hold careers in the maritime industry. It is estimated that around 100,000 people in the United States alone have suffered terminal consequences or death as a result of asbestos exposure within the ship building industry. This is due to the fact that asbestos was commonly used in steam ships to isolate boilers, steam engines, pipes, and other ship materials. There are many steam ships still in operation!
The Plaintiff in our case had spent the earlier part of his career working aboard four different steamships with Carnival Cruise Line, which, according to one of Carnival’s former chief engineers, had asbestos in the engine room and machine spaces – areas where the Plaintiff worked on a daily basis. Shortly before and after the death of the Plaintiff, an occupational physician and a pathologist opined that the Plaintiff’s cancer was related to asbestos exposure which occurred 10 to 15 years earlier.
After his death, the crew member’s estate filed a lawsuit against Carnival for pre-death pain and suffering, and loss of earnings and support to his family as a result of his occupationally-related cancer. The case went to trial after nine years of hard fought discovery and pre-trial motions, and culminated in a 9-day trial. The jury deliberated for 3.5 hours and awarded the plaintiff $10.3 million dollars. However, because the victim had smoked for over 20 years before his death, the jury found that he was 65% comparatively negligent for the resulting lung cancer. The final net verdict for the Plaintiff was $3.6 million.