The National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimate that approximately 11 million Americans were exposed to asbestos from 1940 to 1978. This number includes those who served in the military, and those who worked in the construction or manufacturing sectors of the economy. For many of these individuals the effects of their exposure to asbestos took decades to manifest.
Such was the case of James Folta who worked as a shipping clerk and product tester at Ferro Engineering in Cook County. From 1966 to 1970, Mr. Ferro carried out his responsibilities dutifully not knowing that every day he was on the job was a day he was putting his life at risk. In 2011, he was diagnosed with mesothelioma and sought to seek compensation for the work related injury that would ultimately claim his life.
Illinois workers’ compensation attorney Bogdan Martinovich remarked, “There is a 25-year time limit for workers to file occupational disease claims within the state. Mr. Ferro was diagnosed 40 years after the exposure occurred. His is a case that highlights the very reasons setting a time-limit for filing occupational disease claims is not advisable.”
The prognosis for a mesothelioma diagnosis isn’t good and while surgery combined with chemotherapy can improve the prognosis, maybe extend a patient’s life slightly, the long-term consequences and shortened lifespan that result are irreversible. Further, the NIH reports that it can take up to 50 years for symptoms to manifest.
According to Martinovich, “The mean latency period, the time it takes for symptoms to develop is 48 years for men, and 53 years for women. Under Illinois law it’s quite possible that many other individuals will develop symptoms decades after their rights to file workers’ compensation claims and to pursue lawsuits have expired. Mr. Ferro’s case highlights the need for the Illinois General Assembly to extend the 25-year deadline so that cases such as his don’t happen again in the future.”