Former Louisiana Jefferson Parish Councilman Jimmy Lawson is suing the local government, the Jefferson School Board and dozens of other entities over claims that he was exposed to toxic asbestos, which contributed to his recent mesothelioma diagnosis. He claims he repeatedly encountered the carcinogenic mineral decades ago while working at New Orleans school properties in the 1960s, in local government offices, and at the Avondale Shipyard, where he was briefly employed in the late 1960s.
Other companies named in the lawsuit include insurers, equipment manufacturers, and corporations like Huntington Ingalls and Union Pacific Railroad.
Lawson, 71, served on the Jefferson Parish Council for 19 years beginning in 1976, and was later appointed to the Jefferson Finance Authority. In 2014, he was appointed to the Housing Authority. He was diagnosed with the rare and deadly asbestos cancer less than a year ago, and filed his lawsuit in the Orleans Parish Civil District Court last month.
Asbestos contains microscopic fibers that are both durable and fire resistant and for that reason were widely used in various building materials like insulation. The use of asbestos was dramatically reduced beginning in the 1980s, but it is still present in older buildings. Asbestos fibers can be easily ingested or inhaled if the fibers become airborne, and cause serious lung ailments like asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer that develops in the lining of the lungs, abdomen and other internal organs.
It typically takes decades for mesothelioma to develop, but once diagnosed it typically proves deadly within one to two years.
Lawson isn’t the only person who has developed mesothelioma to hold accountable companies that likely contributed to his disease. Asbestos litigation is the longest, most expensive mass tort program in U.S. history, according to Reinsurance News.