OUTRAGEOUS MISCONDUCT: The Asbestos Industry on Trial by Paul Brodeur

OUTRAGEOUS MISCONDUCT: The Asbestos Industry on Trial

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Everything you wanted to know--and maybe more--about the 50-year cover-up of the health hazards of asbestos by American corporations. In 1969, Texas asbestos worker Clarence Borel, pale, emaciated, suffering from often crippling pulmonary asbestosis and invariably fatal malignant mesothelioma of the lung, brought suit against asbestos manufacturers, triggering the greatest avalanche of ""toxic tort"" litigation in the history of world jurisprudence. The story ends in 1982 when Johns-Manville, the most culpable of the asbestos companies, filed for protection under Chapter 11 of the federal Bankruptcy Code in order to stay the 16,500 claims by workers needlessly disabled or dead as a result of exposure to its products and to avoid standing trial in tens of thousands of lawsuits expected. The first half here is slow going, as Brodeur painstakingly pieces together the 10-year effort of the workers' lawyers (the heroes in this otherwise heinous affair) to unearth evidence of the cover-up and to articulate the legal issues involved. Things pick up in the second half when Brodeur lambasts the villains: corporate executives, their high-priced attorneys and at least one federal judge willing to exploit the bankruptcy laws to compensate victims at bargain rates; insurers, who knew for decades that asbestos workers were dying early but kept their mouths shut; and legislators, especially presidential hopeful Senator Gary Hart, for pushing laws to drastically limit future legal options in cases of toxic exposure. (These are expected to include untold thousands of lawsuits brought by chemical workers and those harmed by the chemical contamination of the country's ground-water supplies.) Brodeur's book, a product of prodigious research, is bound to become a standard for investigative reporters and influence the future of toxic tort litigation and legislation.

Pub Date: Nov. 27th, 1985
Publisher: Pantheon