Remember, asbestos firms made killing with productJohn E...


August 29, 1998

Remember, asbestos firms made killing with product

John E. Calfee, in his zeal to promote the Fairness in Asbestos Compensation Act of 1998, ignores the crucial history of both the asbestos companies' wrongs as well as asbestos litigation itself ("Asbestos deals have neglected needy victims," Aug 9).

Mr. Calfee's crocodile tears for the victims of asbestos are as false and misleading as his call for tort reform. In his clamor to decry trial attorneys, Mr. Calfee neglects to mention the reprehensible behavior of a multitude of corporate executives whose dollar-based decisions directly led to the death and suffering of thousands of American workers.

Asbestos manufacturers, like the tobacco companies, willfully and knowingly killed for profit. As early as the 1930s, asbestos manufacturers knew that their product would kill those exposed to its deadly fibers, yet did nothing to warn victims.

Asbestos fibers, invisible to the naked eye, invade the lung tissue of their victims. After a latency period of many years, they enter the cellular level of lung and pleural tissue, causing chromosomal damage. This often results in asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. Mesothelioma cancer victims die a horrible death -- essentially they suffocate by having their lungs slowly squeezed shut by accumulated pleural fluid.

These deaths and injuries could have been avoided if workers were properly warned. Instead, the companies deliberately and willfully played hide the ball with this information.

The internal memoranda of these companies is as damning as those of the tobacco manufacturers. Some documents show that companies essentially said the workers will be dead before they figure out what killed them. This conduct continued throughout the next four decades.

If it were not for the dogged persistence of trial attorneys, these loathsome actions would have gone unreported, and victims would have received not a cent in compensation. Now, Mr. Calfee asks us to trust these very companies to organize and fund a compensation scheme. I think not.

Punitive damage awards are the only method in civil court for punishing this criminal behavior. Society can't jail a corporation, so we have to hit them where it hurts. It is called justice.

The pioneering attorneys in asbestos litigation took these companies head-on, often taking out personal loans to make their payrolls. They had to fight the corporate defendants inch by inch for any compensation.

The companies fell into a pattern of denying liability, torturing victims with multiple-day depositions and discovery, filing of frivolous motions and nearly endless appeals. Only after the companies were exposed in court were they willing to talk settlement.

In light of this history, it is absurd to say victims should trust defendant companies. Do not forget that it is these same companies who handed these folks a delayed death sentence for the sake of profit.

David G. Bolgiano


The writer is a trial attorney who handles asbestos cases with the Peter G. Angelos law firm.

Who's the scoundrel, and who's the victim in scandal?

How wondrously absurd that sexual activities are magnified and elaborated. A major felony, hardly; more likely, expressions of paranoia and pathological hypocrisy.

Washington and state capitals are well known as places of fun and lies.

The presidency, a sacred symbol? Nonsense, if not idolatry. Making less important matters into major issues is the daily work of politicians and media.

Sherman Roddy


Students must have better role model

I feel like giving up. I teach health to 11th and 12th graders at Hereford High School in Baltimore County, and right now it feels as if I am paddling upstream. In my classroom, we work very hard at discerning right from wrong while discussing issues dealing with sexuality as well as other crucial life subjects.

At times, I have to address some pretty tough questions from some pretty confused adolescents. How can I expect my students to accept responsibility and consequences relating to their sexuality when the president of our country does not honor truth and evades it whenever he chooses?

I won't give up because I have faith in the strength and spirit of my students, and I believe they are far too valuable not to continue my efforts. However, it would be most helpful if the leadership of the most powerful country in the world would begin to show maturity, integrity, forthrightness and personal commitment, not to mention monogamy.

Susan C. Euker


Clinton is responsible for making affair public

The Monica Lewinsky matter is not about President Clinton being forced to lie because he was asked an improper personal question about his private life. Mr. Clinton made it a public matter by choosing to have sexual relations with a subordinate in his office.

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