Reasons Why Asbestos Regulations are Important

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Reasons Why Asbestos Regulations are Important EPA estimates that asbestos fibers contribute to 7,500 deaths per year in the United States. Most uses of asbestos have been banned since asbestos was found to cause lung cancer and other respiratory diseases in humans. However, it is estimated that 30 million tons of asbestos were used in thousands of building products since the late 1800s. Asbestos-containing building materials are commonly found in buildings constructed prior to the mid-1970s. The asbestos regulations currently in place are necessary to ensure that people are not exposed to airborne asbestos fibers when buildings are remodeled or demolished. What are the statutes and regulations and to whom do they apply? The regulations apply to remodeling or demolition projects which occur in public or commercial buildings. Private residences and apartment buildings with four or fewer dwellings are exempt from the regulations. Any project which is subject to these regulations requires a notification to the department within 10 working days prior to the start of the project. Respondent Fibreboard Corporation, an asbestos manufacturer, was locked in litigation for decades. Plaintiffs filed a stream of personal injury claims against it, swelling throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s to thousands of claims for compensatory damages each year. Fibreboard engaged in litigation with its insurers, respondent Continental Casualty Company and respondent Pacific Indemnity Company, over insurance coverage for the personal injury claims. In 1990, a California trial court ruled against Continental and Pacific, and the insurers appealed. At around the same time, Fibreboard approached a group of asbestos plaintiffs’ lawyers, offering to discuss a “global settlement” of Fibreboard’s asbestos liability. Negotiations at one point led to the settlement of some 45,000 pending claims, and the parties eventually agreed upon $1.535 billion as the key term of a “Global Settlement Agreement.” Of this sum, $1.525 billion would come from Continental and Pacific, which had joined the negotiations, while Fibreboard would contribute $10 million, all but $500,000 of it from other insurance proceeds. At plaintiffs’ counsels’ insistence, Fibreboard and its insurers then reached a backup settlement of the coverage dispute in the “Trilateral Settlement Agreement,” under which the insurers agreed to provide Fibreboard with $2 billion to defend against asbestos claimants and pay the winners, should the Global Settlement Agreement fail to win court approval. Subsequently, a group of named plaintiffs filed the present action in Federal District Court, seeking certification for settlement purposes of a mandatory class that

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