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Asbestos Bankruptcy Trust Funds Update

I was honored to have been asked to give an oral presentation on changes in the U.S. asbestos bankruptcy trust fund system at the 2014 conference of the International Mesothelioma Interest Group (iMig) this week in Cape Town, South Africa.

This video will give you a basic understanding of asbestos bankruptcy trust funds and who is eligible to file a claim.

Mesothelioma Litigation, Hippocrates and BAP1 Genetic Testing

In one of the three abstracts we are proud to be presenting at the International Mesothelioma Interest Group‘s (iMig 2014) conference in Cape Town, South Africa, Kazan Law associate Irena Kin worked with me on Mesothelioma Litigation, Hippocrates and BAP1 Genetic Testing.

Recent medical research has shown that there is a predisposition to mesothelioma in some individuals because of their genetics. Companies who are sued in mesothelioma lawsuits try to use this information as a defense. Kazan Law associate attorney Irena Kin discusses the importance for medical professionals hired by mesothelioma defense attorneys to understand and follow their ethical duties.

Mesothelioma Research Presented by Kazan Law at iMig 2014

I am pleased that our firm was chosen to present three research abstracts at the International Mesothelioma Interest Group (iMig 2014) conference in Cape Town, South Africa. In this video I provide an introduction to the mesothelioma research abstracts and explain how they are presented at the world’s leading conference on mesothelioma.

Kazan Law to Present at World’s Leading Mesothelioma Conference

We are very excited to be heading off to Cape Town, South Africa for the twelfth biennial meeting of the International Mesothelioma Interest Group (iMig 2014).

We are particularly honored that Kazan Law has been chosen to present some of our own research work at this conference. Like the Boston conference in 2012, this year again in Cape Town we are the only law firm in the world whose work has been accepted for presentation.

Asbestos Insulation and its Dangers in Your Home

asbestos insulationAsbestos insulation was used extensively in American homes up until the 1970s. That’s because asbestos is a highly-effective and inexpensive fire-retardant material and thermal and acoustic insulator. It was popular because it could keep flames lit, heat in, cold out, sound clear, damp areas dry and cement strong. Unfortunately, it is also lethal and although no longer used, lingers in many older homes.

Where was asbestos insulation used in older homes?

The main areas of the house where asbestos insulation was used were basements, attics or roofs. In homes built prior to 1975, according to This Old House, asbestos is most commonly found as thermal insulation on basement boilers and pipes and as blown-in attic insulation.

As an acoustical or heat insulator, asbestos was often placed in, around or between steel beams, water and sewer pipes, ducts, high temperature gaskets, stovepipe rings, electrical wiring, vinyl and linoleum sheet flooring, floor backing, shingles, panels, partitions and acoustic tiles. It was also used in heaters, boilers, furnaces, incinerators, artificial fireplaces and barbecues.

When is asbestos insulation dangerous?

Asbestos insulation becomes dangerous when fragments break away and float in household air currents. This is because even a tiny amount is comprised of tens of thousands of microscopic fibers. Being so light, they adhere to clothing, household items or hair; in fact, almost every surface can harbor asbestos fibers. Once breathed in, however, asbestos cannot leave the lungs. The fibers remained trapped and can exist for up to 50 years. As the body attempts to attack and expel them, disease-producing conditions are created. Some are a response to foreign particles–such as asbestosis–while others are actually carcinogenic causing lung cancer and mesothelioma.

What should I do if I have asbestos insulation?

DO NOT DISTURB IT! Any disturbance could potentially release asbestos fibers into the air. If you need to go in your attic and it contains asbestos insulation, you should limit the number of trips you make and shorten the length of those trips in order to help limit your potential exposure.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends that you:

  • Leave asbestos insulation undisturbed in your attic or in your walls.
  • Do not store boxes or other items in your attic if it contains abestos insulation.
  • Do not allow children to play in an attic with asbestos insulation.
  • Do not attempt to remove the insulation yourself.
  • Hire a professional asbestos contractor if you plan to remodel or conduct renovations that would disturb the asbestos insulation in your attic or walls to make sure the material is safely handled and/or removed.

Kazan Law Mesothelioma Research Abstracts to be Presented at the 2014 International Mesothelioma Interest Group Conference

mesothelioma researchWorking as a mesothelioma attorney for as long as I have, I sometimes come up against mesothelioma research questions I can’t find answers to. Helping mesothelioma patients and their families is something you don’t stop thinking about when you go home in the evening. The plight of these people stays with you. And as important as legal justice is to helping them, medical research is important too.

Because we at Kazan Law are committed to mesothelioma research, we not only help support medical mesothelioma research – we also delve into mesothelioma research to try to find answers.

Several of the mesothelioma research areas we have been working on will be presented at a poster session at the upcoming International Mesothelioma Interest Group conference in Cape Town, South Africa later this month:

A Review of the (Scarce) Literature on Pericardial Malignant Mesothelioma

We generally think of mesothelioma as a disease affecting the lining of the lungs or abdomen. Pericardial mesothelioma develops in the thin membrane surrounding the heart, known as the pericardium. Because it is one of the rarest types of mesothelioma cancers, not as much is known about it. We needed to know more about it. With the help of our research librarian Faith Meltzer, we collected all of the pericardial malignant mesothelioma medical literature and analyzed the results.

Pericardial Mesothelioma: Accidental Treatment & Long-term Survival

This presentation explores an interesting case study of one of our clients. Ronald Nelson was born in 1970 and exposed to asbestos as a child. In 2005, he was diagnosed with pericardial mesothelioma. Surgery was performed on Mr. Nelson in 2007. He lived symptom-free until 2012 – unusual for any type of mesothelioma but especially for pericardial mesothelioma. Mr. Nelson filed suit in August 2012. The case was resolved before he died in 2013, securing the financial future of his family. Associate Ryan Harris worked on this case and poster presentation with me.

Hippocrates and BAP1 Genetic Testing in Mesothelioma Litigation

This presentation focuses on the ethics of performing genetic testing without the patient’s permission or knowledge and using the results against them in a court case. Specifically, we considered the Bap 1 oncosuppressor gene, meaning an inherited factor that makes someone’s immune system less able to fight off substances that can cause cancer. This unethical use of genetic testing is being used to “blame the victim” for carrying this gene for developing mesothelioma from asbestos exposure. Our associate Irena Kin worked on our study of this mesothelioma research question with me.

Kazan Law Attorney Helps Pass Sweeping Worker Safety Law

worker safety lawThanks to over a decade of hard work by Kazan Law Of Counsel and pro bono attorney Fran Schreiberg and others dedicated to worker safety, California just became the first state in the nation to pass a comprehensive toxic protection worker safety law.  It will protect workers from toxins in the workplace as new scientific information about the harm they cause comes to light.

Calling the new worker safety law “groundbreaking,” Fran excitedly reviewed for me in an email when California Governor Jerry Brown officially signed the law, why it is so important.

“It is the first law in the country that requires manufacturers and those in the distribution chain to inform a government agency exactly where they are shipping a toxic material or a mixture containing a toxic material, including the quantity, and the proportions, when there is new scientific or medical information that the substance may pose a hazard in a work place and potentially poses a serious new or unrecognized health hazard, including but not limited to, cancer, reproductive or developmental harm, organ system impairment, or death,” Fran explained.

This information will make it possible for the Hazardous Evaluation System and Information Service (HESIS) to target workers known to be at risk, thereby protecting employers from increased liability and employees’ health from harmful exposure to toxic chemicals in the workplace.

The downside is that the worker safety law does not take effect until January 2016. Fran explained, “The delay is because HESIS will be asking for the preceding year’s information, and it was necessary to give industry notice so they would have customer information available.”

Also the new law does not cover all industrial chemicals, just ones that have been newly found by scientific research to be toxic. But given the power of industry to conceal and cover up misdeeds that put people’s health and the environment at risk – as we in the asbestos litigation field know only too well – the passage of this worker safety law is a major step to be celebrated.

The new toxic protection law formerly was known as Senate Bill 193. It was brought forward by State Senator Bill Monning (D-Carmel). But Fran and other labor advocates worked tirelessly behind the scenes for many years to put together all the necessary information and explain it to other legislators.

Fran reminded those who worked on the lobbying effort, “The initial version of this bill – AB 816 by then- Assembly Member Sally Lieber – was vetoed by then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger back in 2005.  But with your support, we refused to give up.”

“Now it’s over to HESIS to use this power and save lives!!  I am certain they will do that.”

Key Scientists To Meet During Mesothelioma Research 50th Anniversary

mesothelioma research

Table of Contents for the series of papers that were the result of Biological Effects of Asbestos, a conference held by The New York Academy of Sciences on October 19, 20, and 21, 1964.

A conclave of leading scientists working in mesothelioma research happens this month under the auspices of the International Mesothelioma Interest Group (iMig). The 12th International Mesothelioma Interest Group Conference. The world’s premier medical congress on mesothelioma – will be held in Cape Town, South Africa, October 21 – 24. We are proud to be the major financial supporter and also a participant in this important symposium.

This year’s iMig conference comes at a special time in the history of mesothelioma research. It coincides with the 50th anniversary of the first ever international asbestos conference held by the New York Academy of Sciences in October 1964.

That first conference and awareness of asbestos as a lethal health hazard came about primarily because of the pioneering efforts of one man, Dr. Irving Selikoff. His work is largely responsible for driving the regulation of asbestos today.

Although Dr. Selikoff was not the first to identify the connection between asbestos and cancer, he played a key role in publicizing the danger to workers.  The results of his epidemiological research were so startling to him that he felt he needed to take action. His research is credited with having pressured the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to limit workplace exposure to asbestos.

Asbestos was widely used by American industries even though its dangerous health effects were already known.  When a local asbestos workers union asked Dr. Selikoff to add their membership to his practice in Paterson, New Jersey, he noticed something that alarmed him. The asbestos workers were being diagnosed with lung disease and cancer at a much higher rate than his other patients and had cases of malignant pleural mesothelioma, a rare cancer. Dr. Selikoff did more mesothelioma research on this with other workers, including shipyard workers. The results convinced him that asbestos was causing the workers’ fatal illnesses and made him determined to make sure that the dangers of asbestos would not be ignored.

In October 1964, Dr. Selikoff organized a conference on the “Biological Effects of Asbestos” through the New York Academy of Sciences.  The conference was a turning point in public and scientific awareness of the hazards of asbestos.   The discussions even included presentations showing that wives could develop mesothelioma from exposure to asbestos dust on their husband’s work clothes.

The asbestos industry and its lawyers did not take this threat to their industry lightly and retaliated with full fury in attacking Dr. Selikoff and his work.  But he never backed down or gave up.  The momentum started by the 1964 conference helped lead to asbestos losing popularity as an industrial material and its being banned for many types of uses. I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Selikoff several times and I can tell you he was a nice guy.

Today as asbestos persists in the environment, we are proud to support both efforts to ban asbestos and research to cure mesothelioma.

How an Asbestos Bankruptcy Affects Your Asbestos Lawsuit

asbestos bankruptcySometimes no matter how strong your case is you may find that you will have to contend with a defendant company’s asbestos bankruptcy. When you file an asbestos lawsuit, you may find that one or more of the companies responsible for exposing you to asbestos has gone into hiding in bankruptcy. This is what’s known as “gaming the system” – using the rules and procedures meant to protect a system in order, instead, to manipulate the system for a desired outcome.

A company that reaped profits while it knowingly exposed people to asbestos, potentially causing their deaths, now can dodge full financial responsibility for each worker’s lawsuit by declaring bankruptcy. With an asbestos bankruptcy, the company will still have to pay the plaintiffs in an asbestos lawsuit but not as much and not as quickly.

This is what happened with the Johns-Manville Corporation, the first major company to be sued for asbestos exposure. I was one of the attorneys who pioneered some of the first asbestos lawsuits against Johns-Manville. Johns-Manville offered asbestos-containing products for sale from their founding in 1901 through 1985. Johns-Manville products were used extensively in construction and naval shipyards, putting many workers at risk for developing mesothelioma or other diseases caused by asbestos exposure.

When thousands of people began developing serious illnesses as a result of asbestos exposure from Johns-Manville products and filed lawsuits, the company filed for bankruptcy in 1982. In 1988, the company emerged from their asbestos bankruptcy and the Manville Personal Injury Settlement Trust took over the company’s liabilities.

Berkshire Hathaway, Inc., acquired Johns-Manville in 2001, and today the company is back in the insulation and construction products business. They simply changed their name by dropping the hyphen. It’s now Johns Manville.

How did this happen? Under Title 28 of the U.S. code, federal bankruptcy laws govern how companies go out of business or recover from debt. A bankrupt company, the “debtor,” might use Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code to “reorganize” its business and try to become profitable again. Management continues to run the day-to-day business operations but all significant business decisions must be approved by a bankruptcy court. This protects the company’s creditors and investors, i.e. banks, suppliers and bondholders.

A number of asbestos companies have filed for bankruptcy; many have set up settlement trusts that are separate from the litigation process. After moving a case towards trial, we submit claim forms and negotiate with these settlement trusts. The money received from these trusts is generally much less than would have been received had they been in the litigation – often pennies on the dollar – and payment may be delayed , but Kazan Law and the plaintiff have no control over this and we do the best we can in the circumstances.

Honoring Mesothelioma Awareness Day 2014 by Supporting Medical Research

mesothelioma awareness day 2014Mesothelioma Awareness Day 2014 is September 26. But here at Kazan Law, in a way every day is Mesothelioma Awareness Day. Because our work in asbestos litigation brings us close to those whose lives are forever impacted by mesothelioma, we seek not only justice for mesothelioma victims and their families, but also advances in mesothelioma medical research. Through our firm and our firm’s foundation, we help support mesothelioma research at leading medical facilities all over the world. But we place special emphasis on two here in the Bay Area: the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) and Stanford University. Not only are they top notch, they also have helped care for many of our clients.

Like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, scientific medical research involves finding many small intricate pieces that in the end will fit together to solve the puzzle. We are proud to support scientists in trying to fit together all those parts on a microbiological level to advance knowledge about mesothelioma.

Here are ten recently published research papers where our foundation’s support is noted in the acknowledgements section:

1.The expression of Dishevelled-3 and glutamine metabolism in malignant pleural mesothelioma

Researchers: Tong Li, Sheng-Cai Hou, Jian-Hua Mao, et al.

Research Institution: The University of California San Francisco

Publication: Journal of Clinical Pathology   Citation: J Clin Pathol 2012 65: 855-858

2.Cul4A is an oncogene in malignant pleural mesothelioma

Researchers: Ming-Szu Hung, Jian-Hua Mao, Zhidong Xu, Cheng-Ta Yang, Jau-Song Yu, Chansonette Harvard, Yu-Ching Lin, Dawn Therese Bravo, David M. Jablons, Liang You

 

Research Institution: University of California San Francisco

Publication: Journal of Cell Molecular Medicine   Citation: J. Cell. Mol. Med. Vol 15, No 2, 2011 pp. 350-358

3.Gli as a Novel Therapeutic Target in Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma

Researchers: Hui Li , Natalie Lui , Tiffany Cheng , Hsin-Hui K. Tseng , Dongsheng Yue, Etienne Giroux-Leprieur, \\

Research Institution: The University of California San Francisco

Publication: The Public Library of Science (PLOS) Citation: PLOS ONE | www.plosone.org 1 March 2013 | Volume 8 | Issue 3 | e57346

4.The homeobox gene EMX2 is a prognostic and predictive marker in malignant pleural mesothelioma

Researchers: Etienne Giroux Leprieur, Tomomi Hirata, Minli Mo, Zhao Chen, Junichi Okamoto, Genevieve Clement, Hui Li, Marie Wislez, David M. Jablons, Biao He

Research Institution: The University of California San Francisco

Publication: Lung Cancer Journal   Citation: Lung Cancer (2014), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.lungcan.2014.06.018

5.Inhibition of activated phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase/AKT pathway in malignant pleural mesothelioma leads to G1 cell cycle arrest

Researchers: Iwao Mikami, Fang Zhang1, Tomomi Hirata, Junichi Okamoto, Kiyoshi Koizumi, Kazuo Shimizu, David Jablons and Biao He

Research Institution: The University of California San Francisco

Publication: Oncology Reports   Citation: Oncology Reports 24: 1677-1681, 2010

6.SMO expression level correlates with overall survival in patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma

Researchers: Yi Zhang, Jianxing He, Fang Zhang, Hui Li, Dongsheng Yue, Changli Wang, David M Jablons, Biao He and Natalie Lui

Research Institution: The University of California San Francisco

Publication: Journal of Experimental & Clinical Cancer Research Citation: Journal of Experimental & Clinical Cancer Research 2013, 32:7 http://www.jeccr.com/content/32/1/7

7.The expression of CXCR4, CXCL12 and CXCR7 in malignant pleural mesothelioma

Researchers: Tong Li, Hui Li, Yucheng Wang,Chansonette Harvard, Jia-Li Tan, Alfred Au,7 Zhidong Xu, David M Jablons and Liang You

Research Institution: The University of California San Francisco

Publication: Journal of Pathology  Citation: J Pathol 2011; 223: 519–530

8.Targeting Gli transcription activation by small molecule suppresses tumor growth

Researchers: G. Bosco-Clement, F. Zhang, Z .Chen, H-M Zhou, H. Li, I. Mikami, Hirata, A. Yagui-Beltran, N Lu, H.T. Do

Research Institution: The University of California San Francisco

Publication: Oncogene   Citation: Oncogene (2014) 33, 2087–2097

9.Transgenic Mice for Cre-Inducible Overexpression of the Cul4A Gene

Researchers: Tong Li,Ming-Szu Hung,Yucheng Wang,Jian-Hua Mao, Jia-Li Tan,Kenneth Jahan, Hannah Roos,Zhidong Xu, David M. Jablons and Liang You

Research Institution: The University of California San Francisco

Publication: Genesis: The Journal of Genetics and Development     Citation: genesis 49:134–141 (2011)

10.miR-1 Induces Growth Arrest and Apoptosis in Malignant Mesothelioma

Researchers: Yue Xu , PhD ; Ming Zheng , PhD ; Robert E. Merritt , MD ; Joseph B. Shrager , MD ; Heather A. Wakelee , MD ; Robert A. Kratzke , MD ; and Chuong D. Hoang , MD

Research Institution: Stanford University

Publication: Chest   Citation: Chest 2013; 144(5):1632–1643

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