Asbestos cases are focused on how an individual was exposed to asbestos and later developed an asbestos-related illness, such as asbestosis or mesothelioma. We know asbestos fibers, when inhaled into the lungs, will eventually cause mesothelioma, a deadly variant of lung cancer that typically leaves its victims with only months to live.
So, defense attorneys for the asbestos industry and companies like boiler or brake manufacturers and their reinsurance companies, know if a victim comes forward who is dying of mesothelioma or has already died, they are potentially liable. If it is shown that the individual during their career, worked with the product, and had performed maintenance that would have released asbestos fibers, it would go poorly with the jury for their client.
Moreover, this is why in many asbestos cases, there is a plethora of technical legal arguments made by the defense in an attempt to confuse the judge and jury with a barrage of frequently irrelevant arguments that rival the technical pleadings of a Dickensian courtroom.
In a case where a deceased plaintiff was awarded $980,000 against a manufacturer of boilers, the defendant appealed making various technical legal arguments. One of their claims was that the plaintiff failed to prove causation.
They like this style of argument, because asbestos fibers do not come with serial numbers, so it is almost never possible to "prove" a particular manufacturer's asbestos is the asbestos that triggered the mesothelioma that killed the victim.
However, in this case, the man worked with their boilers for more than 16 years and spent three years removing asbestos from buildings with their boilers. Given that a single inhalation of asbestos fibers is enough to start the long road to mesothelioma, the court of appeals upheld the verdict, finding sufficient causation had been shown.
Source: Legal Newsline, "$980K asbestos verdict against Cleaver Brooks affirmed in deceased boiler worker’s case," Heather Isringhausen Gvillo, April 22, 2014