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In this file photo, a worker uses a forklift near a hydrocracker area of the refinery complex on Rosedale Highway. The plant is what's left of the former Mohawk Refinery that operated there starting in 1932.

Decades can pass before cancer from asbestos exposure becomes evident, and by that time, who's to say exactly who or what is to blame?

It almost doesn't matter: Lawyers say that if documentation can be found showing a cancer patient spent enough time working somewhere asbestos was present — and the cancer is consistent with exposure to the carcinogen — then there's a chance that financial compensation may be available to the person or the person's heir.

Such is the case with the former Mohawk Refinery on Rosedale Highway.

A Birmingham, Ala., law firm is looking for people who either worked at or are related to someone who worked at the refinery before 1980 and later developed cancer.

Lawyer Robert Norris said people who qualify may be entitled to thousands of dollars, maybe tens of thousands, from any of several trusts set up to disburse money to victims of asbestos exposure.

Though no longer in wide use, asbestos used to be a common material in refineries and other industrial sites. As a result of exposure, workers who inhaled or ingested its microfibers may, over time, develop mesothelioma or lung, esophageal, laryngeal, pharyngeal, stomach, colon or rectal cancer.

The National Cancer Institute says 10 to 40 years can pass before asbestos-related cancers begin to appear.

Norris said the refinery has been declared a "qualified site." That means instead of suing for compensation, qualified victims or their heirs need only prove how long the person was employed there — five years may be enough to qualify — and turn over medical records showing the cancer diagnosis.

Liability for paying such claims does not rest with the refinery or its former owners. Instead, payments would come from five asbestos trusts set up to cover injury claims.

The Bakersfield refinery was owned by Mohawk Petroleum Corp. when it first opened in 1932. It changed hands many times over the years, merging along the way with neighboring operations, and is now owned by Delek US. It is closed and has not operated for 12 consecutive months since 2012.

FINDING DOCUMENTATION

In the case of a qualified asbestos site, the process of filing and collecting on a claim does not typically involve a lawsuit. Even so, Norris said the process is not always easy; the difficult part can be collecting pathology reports, doctor's reports and employment records.

"The big challenge is getting the records," he said. "That's always the biggest challenge."

He emphasized that filing a claim has no effect on a person's pension or Social Security benefits.

Lawyer James A. Yoro, an equity partner in the Bakersfield law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles, said a statute of limitations limits the window of opportunity for filing a claim against an asbestos trust. But because the window only opens when a person becomes aware of the cancer diagnosis, he said, the statute doesn't usually become a barrier to payment.

While asbestos claims are not unheard of in Kern, Yoro said, those related to valley fever are more common here.

He and Norris noted that someone making an asbestos claim may have been exposed to the carcinogen at different times at various locations. They said this diversity of exposures does not generally affect a person's chances of collecting payment from an asbestos trust.

ANOTHER AVENUE

Yoro also pointed out another option available to people exposed to asbestos while at work in California. It's called the Asbestos Workers' Account and it is part of a fund in the state Treasury.

How long and difficult the process of collecting on an asbestos claim often depends on the documentation a claimant provides, Yoro said. The more records available, he said, the better.

He advised that anyone with a possible claim consider filing one.

"If somebody does have a potential claim, they should definitely try it out," he said. "There’s nothing to lose by trying it.”

John Cox can be reached at 661-395-7404. Follow him on Twitter: @TheThirdGraf.

(6) comments

REMUDA

H.R.1586 - Asbestos Compensation Fairness Act of 2003

(6) exposure to asbestos has created a flood of litigation

in state and Federal courts that the United States Supreme

Court has characterized as ``an elephantine mass'' of cases

that ``defies customary judicial administration and calls for

national legislation,'' Ortiz v. Fibreboard Corporation, 119 S.

Ct. 2295, 2302 (1999);

(11) the cost of compensating exposed individuals who are

not sick jeopardizes the ability of defendants to compensate

people with cancer and other serious asbestos-related diseases,

now and in the future; threatens the savings, retirement

benefits, and jobs of defendants' current and retired

employees; adversely affects the communities in which these

defendants operate; and impairs the national economy and

interstate commerce;

(16) excessive, unpredictable, and often arbitrary damage

awards and unfair allocations of liability jeopardize the

financial well-being of many individuals, businesses, and

entire industries, particularly the nation's small businesses;

(17) punitive damage awards unfairly divert the resources

of defendants from compensating genuinely impaired claimants

and, given the lengthy history of asbestos litigation and the

regulatory restrictions on the use of asbestos-containing

products in the workplace, the legal justification for such

awards--punishment and deterrence--is either inapplicable or

inappropriate; and

(18) the public interest and the interest of interstate

commerce requires deferring the claims of exposed individuals

who are not sick in order to preserve, now and for the future,

defendants' ability to compensate people who develop cancer and

other serious asbestos-related injuries and to safeguard the

jobs, benefits and savings of American workers and the well-

being of the national economy.

(https://www.congress.gov/bill/108th-congress/house-bill/1586/text)

REMUDA

John Cox, where's Paul Harvey ("The Rest Of The Story") When ya really need'im . . . ?

REMUDA

"Paul Harvey had a gift of making you feel like you were part of the family. Unlike today’s news culture, we trusted what he was telling us". (born Sept. 4, 1918--died Feb. 28, 2009)

(https://www.timesleader.com/opinion/op-ed/735110/their-view-paul-harvey-saw-the-decline-of-america-coming)

REMUDA

" . . . then there's a chance that financial compensation may be available to the person or the person's heir . . . or their heirs". (above ⇑⇑ . . . HEIRS . . . ?)

(2013)

" . . . Carolyn McCarthy (69), a nine-term congresswoman from Long Island, was diagnosed with lung cancer . . . ended a pack-a-day cigarette habit that she’d had for most of her life, presumably because she understood the link between cigarette-smoking and lung cancer. Scientists estimate that smoking plays a role in 90 percent of lung cancer deaths."

“Since my diagnosis with lung cancer,” she wrote in a recent legal filing, “I have had mental and emotional distress and inconvenience. I am fearful of death.” She added, “My asbestos-related condition has disrupted my life, limiting me in my everyday activities and interfering with living a normal life.”

"Asbestos-related?"

"Yes, that’s right. It’s hard these days for smokers to sue tobacco companies because everyone knows the dangers of cigarettes. Instead, McCarthy has become part of a growing trend: lung cancer victims who are suing companies that once used asbestos."

"With asbestos litigation well into its fourth decade — the longest-running mass tort in American history — you’d think the plaintiffs’ bar would have run out of asbestos companies to sue. After all, asbestos lawsuits have bankrupted more than 100 companies. Yet McCarthy has found more than 70 additional companies to sue, including General Electric and Pfizer. Asbestos litigation, says Lester Brickman, a professor at Yeshiva University and perhaps the most vocal critic of asbestos lawsuits, “is a constant search for viable defendants.” Because asbestos was once such a ubiquitous product, there is always somebody else to sue."

(https://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/03/opinion/nocera-the-asbestos-scam.html) WOW! & this from . . . THE NEW YORK TIMES . . . ???

Willyoubemyneighbor

If you have never watched your otherwise vibrant & healthy father die from mesothelioma, then you can’t possibly understand the devastation of asbestos exposure. It’s not about suing. It’s getting a kind of justice for the senseless loss of a loved one.

REMUDA

Sue 'em . . . Sue 'em . . . Sue 'em . . . !

Who can we 'Sue Now' . . .& get paid later . . . !? (TV commercials abound)

Call 'em "Curb Steppers" represented by "Ambulance Chasers" . . . !

Asbestos has saved more lives than it has ever 'taken' . . . just like DDT . . . ! (and the risks/warnings were always there . . . like farming dust!)

Oh yeah, Nicotine . . . ? Cigarettes . . . ? Wait until 'Vaping' reaches its 'Climax' . . . !

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