Rochester, NY – (Mesothelioma News) A federal jury in Rochester, N.Y., has convicted a contractor of violating the Clean Air Act and exposing workers and the public to cancer-causing asbestos. The verdict, reached on Nov. 12, focused on the actions of Keith Gordon-Smith and Gordon-Smith Contracting during a two-year demolition project at Rochester’s Genesee Hospital.
Prosecutors from the U.S. Department of Justice, who tried the case against the upstate New York contractor, said asbestos “fell like snow” on workers, who wore no protective suits.
Mesothelioma lawyers say the extent and duration of the violations are particularly troubling because the resulting asbestos exposure could put many individuals at risk of developing asbestos-related diseases, including lung cancer and mesothelioma, a nearly always fatal cancer that strikes the protective lining covering many of the body’s organs.
The heat- and fire-resistant qualities of asbestos made it a popular building material until it was scientifically linked to cancer. Even so, it is still present in many buildings, from homes and offices to schools, and its removal and disposal is strictly regulated by federal and state law.
Contractors, for example, must take special care when removing the material during renovation and demolition work. They are required to provide workers with adequate safety garments and gear, and to minimize the danger of asbestos being released into the air. When airborne, asbestos particles are especially dangerous, because they can easily be inhaled and lodge in the lungs, triggering diseases like mesothelioma, which manifests itself years, even decades, later.
Medical researchers have not fared so well in the fight to eradicate mesothelioma. To date, there is still no cure. The disease, which is almost always caused by asbestos exposure, is both physically and financially devastating.
Mesothelioma lawyers, on the other hand, have had great success in the courtroom, obtaining large, often multimillion-dollar verdicts and settlements against those who knew about asbestos dangers but did little, or nothing, to protect others.
These civil cases are just part of the story. In recent years, courts have seen an increasing number of criminal cases brought against those who do not follow the rules when it comes to handling asbestos. The Rochester case is just one example of this increased focus on enforcement.
Gordon-Smith, who was convicted on eight counts of asbestos removal violations from 2007 through 2009 and then lied to hide those violations, now faces up to five years in prison, along with fines of up to $250,000 on each count.
Nor were Gordon-Smith’s actions an innocent mistake, according to prosecutor Ignacio Moreno, assistant U.S. attorney general for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. Instead, Moreno said, the contractor knowingly exposed workers and public areas to asbestos-and an increased risk of mesothelioma and other deadly diseases.
While Gordon-Smith’s exact prison sentence and fine will soon be known, those who were exposed to asbestos because of his actions will have a far longer wait to learn their own fate.
This news story was brought to you by the mesothelioma lawyers of Cooney & Conway. For more than half a century, we’ve brought relief-and recovery-to those injured by the negligence or harmful actions of others. In the process, we’ve litigated some of the country’s most significant asbestos lawsuits, helping victims of mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other asbestos-related diseases get answers and justice.