The history of asbestos litigation is, at its core, a tale of corporate greed. At the beginning of the 20th century, a lot of products were being manufactured with asbestos due to the fact that it was inexpensive and easily obtainable. These characteristics combined with its properties of extreme durability and resistance to heat made asbestos an ideal material for use in various insulation and building materials. However, it was soon discovered that the benefits of asbestos were accompanied by a serious downside.
As early as the 1930s, industry groups began to discover the dangers of prolonged asbestos exposure. Research uncovered a direct and irrefutable correlation between inhaling airborne asbestos fibers and a potentially fatal lung disease. However, this research also showed that, following exposure to asbestos, it could take anywhere from 20 to 40 years before the disease could be detected and diagnosed. Due to this latency period and the fact that the use of asbestos was so widespread and profitable, corporations were in no hurry to change their practices even in light of the inherent dangers of the product.
In 1970, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) began regulating the use of asbestos, in part through establishing permissible exposure levels (PEL’s). However, the use of asbestos has not been completely banned. The first lawsuits relating to asbestos exposure were filed in the 1970s. To date, new cases continue to be filed in Philadelphia and around the country. In fact, there have been several multimillion dollar asbestos verdicts in Philadelphia alone within the last year.