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Pittsburgh Wrongful Death Law Blog

Asbestos claims reach into the past for present-day justice

Cigarettes are sold and smoked in Pennsylvania, despite clear ties between tobacco use and deadly diseases. The hazards of asbestos exposure are also widely known, but many Allegheny County consumers purchase products containing asbestos, which is known to cause life-threatening cancers. The mineral fiber is a superior insulator and heat resistor, perfect for industrial applications but highly dangerous to health.

Asbestos found its way into shipbuilding, construction materials, household products and vehicles – around 3,000 different products, according to The Mesothelioma Center. Manufacturers were unwilling to end their love affair with asbestos, even after companies learned the fiber sickened and killed workers in contact with it. By the 1960s, evidence of asbestos' connection to cancer was undeniable.

Pennsylvania worker’s fatal leukemia tied to benzene exposure

The American Cancer Society and other national and international research organizations define benzene as a carcinogen. The chemical is present in gasoline, cigarette smoke and a multitude of other, everyday products. Benzene has been linked to blood cell cancers, with the highest risk of illnesses among victims with exposure to the chemical at work.

The estate of an independent contractor named a petroleum manufacturer and refiner in a negligence lawsuit. The contractor worked for a decade at refineries in Pennsylvania and a neighboring state, before the laborer was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia. The negligence lawsuit was filed five months after the 2012 diagnosis and after the cancer victim's death, was pursued by the refinery worker's estate.

Pennsylvania workers: Safer, but not as safe as they could be

The risks of dying from an on-the-job accident or illness before 1970 were more than 80 percent greater in the U.S. than they are today. That was the year the Occupational Safety and Health Act was enacted. While the present work environment is markedly better than in the past for Pittsburgh workers, there is plenty of room for safety improvements.

An AFL-CIO report showed Pennsylvania's rate of at-work deaths was the same in 2012 as the national average of 3.4 fatalities for every 100,000 employees. States' workplace death rates swung wildly from a high of more than 17.7 fatalities to a low of 1.4 deaths per 100,000 employees. More than 4,600 workers died in job accidents nationwide in 2012, with another 50,000 deaths attributed to work-related diseases.

School blamed for Pennsylvania asthmatic student's death

Teachers are entrusted with the safety of one, a few or dozens of children. Pennsylvania schools are responsible for administering medications to students who, under state and federal guidelines, are prohibited from carrying drugs with them during the school day. For some students, medication is a lifeline.

A wrongful death lawsuit was filed recently against the School District of Philadelphia, an academy, the principal and a teacher. There was no nurse on duty at the W.C. Bryant Promise Academy when a 12-year-old girl reported having trouble breathing last September. School rules required a nurse to monitor the use of student prescription drugs, including an inhaler the girl used to control asthma.

Third plaintiff may join wrongful death action over jet crash

Fault in motor vehicle accident cases sometimes is not isolated to the drivers involved. A third party may be guilty of negligence. Several individuals or entities, including or instead of a vehicle operator, might be named as defendants in Pittsburgh personal injury or wrongful death claims.

Seven people, including a prominent Pennsylvania businessman, died in a fiery private jet crash in May. Bloomberg reported 72-year-old Lewis Katz, a one-time pro sports teams' owner, was killed days after taking control of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Katz and three friends, along with two pilots and a flight attendant, were taking off from a New England airport, following a party, when the fatal accident occurred.

Court upholds asbestos claim over smoker's lung cancer death

Causes for injuries or deaths aren't as straightforward as they sometimes appear to be. Asbestos exposure and tobacco use are both linked to lung cancer. Chances of getting lung cancer skyrocket when a person exposed to asbestos is a smoker.

Pittsburgh residents are well aware smoking alone is a cancer risk. The federal Toxic Substances and Disease Registry reported smokers were up to 23 times more likely to develop lung cancer than nonsmokers. Add in exposure to asbestos and the risk of lung cancer among smokers increases 50 to 84 times.

Who are the unsuspecting victims of asbestos-related diseases?

You may picture victims of on-the-job respiratory illnesses surrounded by clouds of toxic dust day after day, year after year. That mental image represents the setting for some sickened workers but is not representative of all victims of asbestos-related diseases. Asbestos injuries have been reported by employees in a surprising number of other occupations.

Almost everyone in Pittsburgh breathes or ingests asbestos, a naturally-occurring mineral, although the rate of exposure differs from person to person. People working with asbestos products, particularly over long periods, are at a higher risk of developing serious or deadly health problems, like mesothelioma, than people with casual exposure.

The 3 defects in Pittsburgh products liability cases

Products that do not live up to reasonable expectations are defective. A sofa isn't defective because the material used to cover it failed to prevent your dog from chewing up the cushions. Unless the manufacturer guaranteed shred-proof furniture, the sofa is not a defective or unsafe product for failing to withstand an "unreasonable" canine attack.

Product makers may be liable for one of three types of harmful defects. A defective product can be "born bad" by faulty design or may be manufactured improperly, even when a design is fault-free. The third type is a marketing defect with faults in labeling, warnings, instructions or advertising claims -- false promises and harmful omissions included.

Poor contract work may have led to Pennsylvania well blast

Pennsylvania environmental officials recently released a report about the cause of a gas well explosion south of Pittsburgh in February. The blast and subsequent five-day fire at the Dunkard, Greene County, well site claimed the life of a field service technician. State investigators still don't know what triggered the blast, but feel human mistakes created the circumstances that led to it.

The well owner is a Chevron Corp. subsidiary, Chevron Appalachia LLC, which so far, has not been fined by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection for the accident. Chevron Appalachia was named in a June wrongful death lawsuit filed by the parents of the 27-year-old man who died in the explosion. The state DEP believes an unsupervised, untrained worker's error was the likely cause for a well gas leak.

Fatal work explosion blamed on Pennsylvania parts factory

Allegheny County residents with work-related injuries are covered by insurance Pennsylvania laws require employers to carry. Workers' compensation benefits pay for injury-related medical costs and replace victims' lost income. Families of employees also receive benefits, following the immediate or delayed death of a worker in the course of employment.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently cited a Pennsylvania factory, where a Mersen USA research and development director died. A blast in a work oven claimed the 52-year-old visiting executive's life in late January. Two others were injured, including a 58-year-old production manager at the St. Mary's electrical parts factory, north of Pittsburgh.

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