Yellowstone County, Montana, reached an agreement with a former janitor this month in an asbestos lawsuit, with the help of a mediator.
Billings Gazette reports that Lauren DuPuis worked as a contractor janitor for Automated Maintenance Services Inc. from 1987 to 1999, which included duties in the Yellowstone County Courthouse. It was during that time the DuPuis was “harmfully exposed to asbestos-containing products utilized in the Yellowstone County Courthouse during his tenure there.”
In 2014, Dupuis was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma. Shortly after, he sought out a judgment against Yellowstone County for “reasonable compensation,” which included medical costs associated with his illness, pain, suffering, emotional distress, and the loss of enjoyment of life. Unfortunately, Dupuis passed away when the mediation for his case started, but his asbestos attorneys continued the case for him.
According to the complaint,
“As a direct and proximate result of exposure to asbestos contained in (Yellowstone County’s) facilities, Lauren DuPuis contracted mesothelioma and became permanently disabled.”
With the help of a case mediator, the city was able to come to an agreement with Dupuis’ attorneys, and $65,000 was given to the former janitor’s estate.
Janitors and the Risk of Asbestos
Although Dupuis served as a janitor during the years in which asbestos wasn’t used, the toxic mineral was used to create numerous buildings that are still in use today, including the Yellowstone County.
Janitors are at a heightened risk of developing toxic diseases such as mesothelioma as they frequently work in building and structures that were built with asbestos-containing materials (ACMs). In 1991, a study on janitors in the workplace sponsored by the federal government provided evidence that janitor have a heightened risk of asbestos exposure, and in turn, a higher than usual chance of developing life-threatening illnesses when compared to others that may occupy the buildings that janitors work in.
“Because custodial and maintenance workers may be transiently exposed to higher levels of asbestos, their added lifetime risk of cancer may be appreciably higher than the risk to general building occupants.”
The Service Employees International Union demanded better protection for janitors during the 90s, and hoped that the scientific study would help them convince the government to take better measures to help the workers. According to the union’s director Bill Borwegen, the main goal is allowing all janitors to know if they are working in a building with asbestos so that they can take proper measures to protect themselves.
“All we want is for the agency to give workers the right to know if there is asbestos in the building.”
According to a study on janitors provided by Cornell University, custodial workers are at the risk of the following:
- Inhaling asbestos from floor tiles, especially when cleaning with abrasive pads
- Asbestos exposure while removing floor wax
- Asbestos exposure from vinyl flooring
The study included research on the mechanical stripping of floors. The results showed that many floors contained than 0.01 asbestos fibers per cubic centimeter of air, which is well above the clearance level of asbestos to be considered safe.
Additional Help and Resources for Janitors
If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or any other illness related to asbestos, you may be eligible for substantial compensation. There is currently over $30 billion in asbestos trust funds, set up for those who are victims to asbestos-related diseases. Use our free Asbestos Attorney Locator Tool today to find a leading mesothelioma attorney in your area. If you have questions or need assistance, contact us toll-free at 800-694-4856.