People who worked at these businesses, especially before the 1970s, were at a high risk of becoming sick from asbestosis and related ailments that often led to death. Contractors and other workers whose jobs involved taking apart or otherwise working with old parts made by Western MacArthur also came into contact with these potentially fatal carcinogens.
Harmful Products and Health Consequences
Since the 1970s, the Environmental Protection Agency has put forth better regulations to restrict the use of asbestos-laden materials in newer products. However, many of these older, carcinogenic products are still in use today. Research has shown that there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos-laden products, and people today are better trained to know the risks.
This was not the case decades ago when most people worked at Western or at the locations where these products were used. People during that time had no warning that they were putting their health in jeopardy just by doing their jobs.
Lawsuits and Bankruptcy
Western Macarthur faced a flurry of lawsuits from former employees and surviving family members whose lives were compromised by the business’s negligence to properly protect workers from harm. In 2002, MacArthur ultimately chose to file bankruptcy rather than continue to battle costly litigation in court.
The bankruptcy allowed the company to settle claims through a trust, which meant that there would be a limit to how much could be paid out per claim.
The Western Asbestos Settlement Trust
The Western Asbestos Settlement Trust was established in 2004 after Western Macarthur emerged from bankruptcy in the early 2000s. The trust paid a total of $683,773,340 in claims as of April 2018. Most claims were paid by December 2005, but the trust reported paying 110 claims for mesothelioma and 71 claims for lung cancer for California residents in 2017 alone.
Claims by people from California who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma are paid out at an average of $524,025. People from California with lung cancer receive an average claim amount of $199,195. According to legal documents filed by the trust with the bankruptcy court in 2018, the majority of exposure sites are defined as ones with “typical exposures to asbestos at shipyards, refineries, power plants and other industrial and commercial sites where Western was determined by the Trust to be responsible for a significant portion of asbestos-exposure at the worksite.”
People who worked at these locations and have been diagnosed with or have relatives who died from asbestosis or related diseases are eligible to file claims.
It takes an average of 20 to 40 years for mesothelioma to develop, which means that there are likely to be more claims paid out over the years to victims and loved ones whose families do not survive this ailment. Although the disease takes years to show up, it has often progressed to an advanced stage by this time, and prognosis can be very poor.