Railroad workers are at an elevated risk of cancers such as mesothelioma and lung cancer. Why is that? Because, historically, railroad workers have endured chronic exposures to asbestos.

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous silicate mineral that is mined from deposits around the world. Asbestos is tough, resistant to corrosion, an excellent insulator, and cheap to produce. These characteristics made asbestos well suited for a wide variety of applications throughout the railroad industry. The railroads began using asbestos shortly after industrial production of asbestos began, and before long, the railroad industry was heavily reliant on products manufactured with asbestos. 

Does Asbestos Cause Cancer?

Yes. There are six different types of asbestos. All six are classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as Group 1 carcinogens. [1] Group 1 carcinogens are toxins that are known to cause cancer. Examples of other Group 1 carcinogens include benzene, plutonium, and tobacco

What Cancers are Caused by Asbestos Exposure?

Asbestos is known to cause mesothelioma and lung cancer and it has been strongly associated with numerous other cancers. Asbestos exposure is also known to cause pulmonary conditions such as asbestosis. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with one of the following you may be eligible for compensation.

How Much Asbestos Exposure is Dangerous?

The only safe level of asbestos exposure is zero. Even small doses of asbestos exposure can result in the development of mesothelioma. 

How do Exposures to Asbestos Occur?

Most dangerous exposures to asbestos occur through ingestion or inhalation. As asbestos materials deteriorate they break down and release asbestos fibers into the air. Once asbestos dust becomes airborne, it can float in the air for days. Airborne asbestos dust is easily inhaled or ingested. If inhaled, asbestos can be permanently trapped in your lungs. If swallowed, asbestos can be permanently trapped in your digestive tract. Airborne exposures to asbestos can be particularly severe when working in unventilated environments without respirators or other protective equipment.

These types of exposures typically occur in occupational settings. However, this is not always the case. Asbestos fibers also cling to clothing. Many individuals, who have never worked around asbestos materials in their life, develop cancer as a result of being exposed to the asbestos brought into their homes on the clothing of loved ones.

When did the Railroads Know that Asbestos Causes Cancer?

Asbestos was identified as a toxin by the Association of American Railroads in 1937. By 1958, railroads knew asbestos caused cancer. After 1960, it was medically accepted that asbestos definitely causes mesothelioma.

When did the Railroads Stop Using Asbestos?

The railroads had become so reliant on asbestos by the 1960’s that they resisted calls to phase out its use for decades. However, manufacturers slowly started to refuse to manufacture new products with asbestos. As a result, the railroads finally had to begin transitioning to alternatives in the mid-1980s. However, the threat of asbestos continues to linger. As recently as 2015, CSX was cited by OSHA for violating the asbestos standard at CSX’s Selkirk Shop.

Which Railroad Workers Suffered the Worst Exposures?

Traditionally, locomotive machinists, electricians, pipefitters and car department workers had some of the worst asbestos exposures.  Those railroad employees performed hands-on work, which involved cutting and shaping of asbestos containing parts, such as gaskets and brake shoes. But there were also asbestos exposure routes for locomotive engineers and conductors and track department workers. Asbestos insulation was used throughout locomotives and railroad buildings and bridges were literally constructed out of asbestos-containing materials. And when the railroads remediated asbestos from the locker room floors and ceilings, the contractors often negligently spread the asbestos dust throughout the work space.

What can I do if I was Exposed to Asbestos?

If you or a loved one was exposed to asbestos and have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, the attorneys at Hughes Law Offices may be able to help. These are complicated cases that require experienced attorneys. While you and your loved ones focus on recovery, let us do the work needed to prove your case. Contact Hughes Law Offices today at 312-877-5588 for a free attorney consultation.

Railroad Mesothelioma Verdicts & Settlements

Confidential settlement (Illinois, 2020) 

Hughes Law Offices represented a locomotive conductor who worked for Union Pacific Railroad (UP) and its predecessor Chicago and North Western Transportation Company (CNW). Our client worked for CNW and UP from 1973 to 2015. A couple years after retiring, he was diagnosed with colon cancer. We filed a lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Cook County alleging that long-term exposures to asbestos, diesel exhaust, and secondhand tobacco smoke caused the colon cancer. During discovery, UP turned over a bid that it received for $678,000 to remove 24,000 square feet of asbestos-containing wall and ceiling panels from the Proviso Yard Diesel Ramp in Illinois, where our client reported for work. That bid was received in 2013. Our client was a non-smoker with no risk factors for colon cancer. 

$6,951,000 verdict (California, 2015)

The Plaintiff worked as a boilermaker for Southern Pacific Railroad (which merged with UP in ‘96). During his time with the railroad, he was repeatedly exposed to asbestos at Southern Pacific’s Sacramento locomotive shops in California. As a result of his exposure, he developed malignant mesothelioma. During discovery, it was revealed that Southern Pacific did not comply with regulatory requirements regarding asbestos for at least 15 years while the Plaintiff was an employee. The Jury awarded $451,265 in economic damages and an additional $6,500,000 for pain and suffering. (Emerson v. Union Pacific)

$5,240,000 verdict (Texas, 2014)

The Plaintiff worked for the Great Northern Railway (a predecessor to BNSF) as an apprentice carman in Waite Park, Minnesota for a little over two years. During his employment, he was exposed to asbestos fibers while working with asbestos-containing insulation and parts. More than 50 years after leaving the railroad, the Plaintiff was diagnosed with mesothelioma at age 78. The Jury awarded $3,240,000 for physical pain and an additional $2,000,000 for mental anguish. (Blommer v. BNSF)

$6,600,000 settlement (Massachusetts, 2004)

The Plaintiff, a railroad mechanic, worked for Penn Central and later Amtrak at the Southampton Street Yard in Massachusetts. During his employment, he worked with asbestos-containing pipe insulation, wall insulation, and brake shoes. As a result of his chronic asbestos exposure, he developed malignant pleural mesothelioma. The Plaintiff eventually reached individual settlements with the many Defendants in the case. The aggregate settlement value was approximately $6,600,000. (Moneypenny v. Metropolitan Life Insurance, et al)

$7,500,000 verdict (North Carolina, 2004)

The Plaintiff was employed by CSX for 38 years working as a clerk and then later a supervisor at CSX’s Hamlet Yard in North Carolina. During his employment, he endured chronic asbestos exposure by breathing in ambient asbestos fibers which could be found in all areas of the facility. Three years after he retired, the Plaintiff was diagnosed with mesothelioma at the age of 59. His cancer required that his left lung and part of his stomach be removed and he underwent three courses of chemotherapy. Despite his treatment, by the time of trial, the Plaintiff had received a fatal prognosis. (Williams v. CSX)

Hughes Law Offices is providing railroad asbestos case histories to inform visitors about actual case fact patterns and rulings. Unless specifically noted, the cases summarized herein were not handled by attorneys at Hughes Law Offices. To learn more about these types of cases visit our Asbestos Verdicts & Settlements page.


Client Testimonials

Worked Diligently

For the past two years Andrew Hughes has worked diligently in helping me with my case against the Norfolk Southern R.R. During this time he has kept me thoroughly informed about my case his expertise led to me getting a generous settlement...

- Client

The National Trial Lawyers

Unique Expertise

Andrew took over my asthma claim with the railroad after a different law firm failed to meet expectations. Andrew’s unique expertise in the field of diesel related injury gave him the ability to build my case exceptionally well. When Andrew presented...

- Steven

Professional and Trustworthy

From my very first contact with Andrew we have found him to be compassionate, hard working and trust worthy. In the eight months we were associated with Andrew we feel he has also become a friend of ours

- Ronald

Wrongful Death Case

My family hired attorney Hughes for the wrongful death of my brother. Mr. Hughes worked very hard on our case, the results were excellent. I would recommend him to anyone needing an attorney, he is a very fair and kind person.

- Carolyn

Contact us Today!  Call us at (312) 877-5588 or submit FREE CASE EVALUATION