Have you broken into vacant buildings to steal metal fixtures and pipes, causing severe damage to the properties?
If so, you may be in for a big payday.
A Southfield-based law firm has posted dozens of banners on abandoned buildings across Detroit, looking for scrappers who have mesothelioma, a deadly lung cancer caused by asbestos exposure.
“Scrappers beware!” warns the banners, posted by 1-800-LAW-FIRM. “Beware of the silent killer!”
Asbestos is an acute danger to scrappers because old buildings often are contaminated by the toxic fibers. Asbestos was popular in building materials because it was fire-resistant and an excellent insulator. By removing the piping and other materials, scrappers risk exposure.
“With growing evidence that companies that manufactured asbestos products were well-aware of its potential for causing cancer, it is critical that they are held responsible,” reads the law firm’s website. “Only through successful litigation can we help prevent corporations from exploiting human life by covering up the potentially dangerous side-effects of their products in order to make a lavish profit.
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Asbestos litigation is an alluring target for lawyers because the payouts are sizable. The average award for an asbestos-related lawsuit is about $13 million, according to a tabulation of settlements and verdicts over the past three years by Westlaw Journal Asbestos.
Asbestos litigation “is a constant search for viable defendants,” Lester Brickman, a professor at Yeshiva University and vocal critic of asbestos lawsuits, told the New York Times.
With 85,000 vacant buildings, Detroit has plenty of asbestos.
Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.