Lipsitz, Ponterio & Comerford, LLC, recently represented two former Republic Steel workers who died from mesothelioma, a cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Due to confidentiality agreements, our clients will be referred to as Client A and Client B throughout this article.

Client A and Client B were exposed to asbestos-containing “hot tops” and other thermal insulation products while employed by Republic Steel in South Buffalo. Both clients worked in the Open Hearth and Mold Yard departments.

Between 1948 and 1977, Client A worked first as a Laborer and Helper in the Open Hearth and later as a Switchman and Engineer on the train inside the Mold Yard. Client B worked as a Laborer in the Open Hearth from 1965 until 1968 and then as a Crane Operator in the Mold Yard from 1969 until 1971. Client B died in December 2013 before he could testify in his own case.

Client A testified, before his death, not only in his own case but in Client B’s case as well, proving essential facts about both cases.

Client A testified that at the time he worked in the Open Hearth, outside contractors removed and installed asbestos-containing insulation in the workers’ immediate vicinity on a regular basis. The work activities of the insulation contractors caused both Client A and Client B to be exposed to massive amounts of asbestos dust.

During the time Client A worked in the Mold Yard as a Switchman and Engineer, he was exposed to the utilization and installation of asbestos-containing “hot top” materials as a bystander. After the steel ingots were poured, cooled and stripped from the molds, old “hot top” materials were removed and replaced with new asbestos-containing “hot top” materials before the next heat of steel was poured.

Client A also testified that Client B was a Crane Operator in the Mold Yard during the time that he worked there as a Switchman and Engineer. Client A gave detailed testimony concerning Client B’s exposure to asbestos-containing “hot top” materials. Client A testified that Client B was exposed to asbestos from the “hot tops” more than anyone else because of his location in the crane above the activities in the Mold Yard. Client A’s testimony detailed the tremendous amount of asbestos both workers were exposed to during their time in the Mold Yard. Client A identified the manufacturers and distributors of the asbestos-containing “hot top” materials.

Our request for a joint trial was granted by the Court, which noted the factual and legal similarities linking the two cases. Both clients were diagnosed with and suffered from malignant mesothelioma; they were exposed to asbestos exclusively during their respective employments at Republic Steel; and they were exposed to the same asbestos-containing materials (insulation and “hot top” materials). In both cases, the same expert witnesses were prepared to testify, and the same defendant companies were named.

The consolidation process relieves the Court of the burden of having to hold separate trials in multiple cases involving similar facts, circumstances and witnesses. This process also allows the parties to share costs associated with the trial that they would otherwise have to bear alone.

Fortunately, the cases settled before trial. At Lipsitz, Ponterio & Comerford, we often represent multiple workers from the same job site. It comes as no surprise that the men and women who worked shoulder to shoulder in factories and at construction sites regularly step forward to help one another in their hour of need.