Eternit Seeks to Protect Itself, Shed Asbestos Exposure Blame
An ongoing trial in Italy is the latest example of an asbestos company looking to skirt the legal system and absolve itself from blame at the expense of exposure victims.
In a recent blog post, Laurie Kazan-Allen, the Coordinator of International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS), noted that the “Great Asbestos Trial” involving asbestos conglomerate Eternit in Italy is beginning to show signs of corruption.
Specifically, Kazan-Allen wrote that lawyers for Stephan Schmidheiny, one of the two former Eternit executives being taken to court, have been engaging in secret negotiations with a number of municipalities that are directly involved in the case. With a three-judge panel expected to announce a verdict on February 13, the lawyers are seeking withdrawal of civic authorities from the case, which would undoubtedly have serious consequences for exposure victims.
Casale Monferrato offered millions by defendant’s lawyers
Casale Monferrato, the site of the recent international meeting dubbed “A World Without Asbestos” which sought to eliminate asbestos-related diseases around the world, is one town that has reportedly been offered a substantial amount of money from Schmidheiny’s attorneys.
According to Kazan-Allen, the town has been offered up to €20 million to settle the claim and withdraw “from this and any future trials (against Eternit) that it might be involved in.”
But Casale Monferrato is not alone, as the Mayor and town council of Cavagnolo agreed to a deal with the lawyers for €2 million for asbestos decontamination. As part of this “tombstone agreement,” the town said it would not bring any more legal action against the former Eternit executive even if more evidence was uncovered, Kazan-Allen explained.
Potential corruption taking focus away from victims
While the Mayor of Casale Monferrato has publicly stated the town would not consider an agreement similar to the one made in Cavagnolo, a source told Kazan-Allen that Casale’s town council is “refusing to show victims and unions the draft of the (proposed) agreement,” leading to more speculation that the municipality could ultimately give in.
Either way, the attention has been shifted away from the plight of the asbestos exposure victims in this case, many of whom are likely suffering from diseases such as lung cancer, asbestosis or malignant mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer.
Scientific evidence continues to substantiate the claims of these individuals, as the World Health Organization estimates approximately 107,000 people are killed each year around the world as a result of such asbestos illnesses.