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									History of Asbestos Claims in North Carolina

The law firm of Wallace & Graham has over 20 years experience in helping North
Carolina employees who have been injured by occupational exposure to asbestos with
their workers’ compensation claims as well as claims in State and Federal Courts. We
have successfully represented thousands of employees to obtain their just legal

Many of the early cases handled by this firm were for people who worked in asbestos
manufacturing facilities or who had heavy exposure to asbestos while working for the
railroads or shipyards.

This was soon followed by insulators. Up until the mid 1970’s (and sometime even
thereafter), insulators had day in and day out exposure to asbestos while installing
asbestos insulation on pipes, tanks, valves, vessels, boilers, turbines, and the like.

Up through the late 1980’s and into the 1990’s, few insulators had any restrictions
applied to them concerning the removal of old asbestos insulation. As a result,
insulators would frequently go into a plant for repair work and remove miles of
asbestos insulation.

The removal process generally involved beating the old insulation off with a hammer
and then throwing it on the floor to be swept up at the end of the day. The removal
process may have created even more exposure to asbestos than the initial insulation.

Even today, despite all the OSHA rules and regulations, insulators are still placed in
positions where they are required to have hands on contact with of asbestos
containing insulation causing them to breathe in even more asbestos fibers.

The next large wave of employees that Wallace & Graham observed was workers in
the construction trade. On thousands of large construction projects, all of the
construction trades generally work together. Plumbers, electricians, pipe fitters,
millwrights, carpenters, painters, masons, and the like worked side by side with the

During these construction projects, absolutely no precautions were taken to prevent
insulators or members of any other trade from being exposed to asbestos. Workers
frequently talked to us about working on numerous construction projects where it
looked like they were in “a snow storm” due to all of the asbestos work that was being

More recently, Wallace & Graham has represented large numbers of factory workers
who are now contracting asbestosis.

Not only are maintenance workers and janitorial staff contracting asbestosis but large
numbers of machine operators now have asbestosis. Many of these operators never
even worked directly with or had hands on contact with asbestos.
However, given the thousands of miles of asbestos laden pipe and the continual nature
of maintenance and construction in most large facilities, many of these workers had a
tremendous exposure to asbestos. In order to prevail in an asbestos workers’
compensation case in North Carolina, there are two main issues that must be proven.

   1. First, workers have to prove that they have asbestosis. A diagnosis of
      asbestosis frequently comes from a workers’ family physician and then is
      usually confirmed by a pulmonologist.
   2. The second area of proof in an asbestosis case required that the worker be last
      injuriously exposed to the hazards of asbestos while in the employment of the
      company against whom the workers’ compensation case has been filed. The
      North Carolina legislature simply made a policy decision making the last
      company responsible.

The law could have been written to place liability on the company where the
individual had most of their exposure, had their longest exposure, had their first
exposure, or the award could be prorated among all of the companies that exposed the
worker to asbestos.

However, the North Caroling legislature decided the elements of proof would be too
vastly complicated in those areas and decided to make only the company where the
individual is last injuriously exposed to asbestos liable for the workers’ compensation

At first glance this appears to create inequitable situations. A worker may have had
extremely heavy long term exposure to asbestos while working for Company A. If the
employee then changes jobs and has only a very short and extremely light exposure to
asbestos at Company B, nevertheless Company B is totally responsible for the injured
workers’ asbestosis claim.

In actual practice, no real inequity is created. In the example above, Company B
seems to have been treated unfairly. However, there will be an equal number of
employees who have long term heavy exposure at Company B but left Company B to
go to work for another employer who ends up being responsible for the workers’
compensation claim. Thus on an average, no company is unfairly burdened by this

Workers do not have to prove that they have an actual disability as a result of their
asbestosis. The compensation is designed not only to encourage workers to remove
themselves from further harmful exposure to asbestos but also compensate individuals
for the incurable nature of this disease.

For more information on asbestos and mesothelioma, please contact our firm at 1-
800-849-5291 or use the "Contact Us" form at the top-right of this page.

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