That is what they called it. Admittedly, in an Op-Ed, but wow.
In May, Carolyn McCarthy, a nine-term congresswoman from Long Island, was diagnosed with lung cancer. Her treatment began almost immediately, causing her to take a lengthy absence from her office while she fought the disease. At the same time, McCarthy, 69, 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.”
Italics were the New York Times’s, not mine. Short version: there’s a lot of sweet, sweet money to be made in asbestos litigation, even today; trial lawyers have adapted to the decline in direct-damage cases (we have, after all, been busily removing asbestos from our environment for some time now) by bringing in lung cancer patients who can show any kind of link between them and an asbestos atmosphere. As per the NYT, said trial lawyers bundle up all the cases, make scary faces at companies being targeted, and get settlement trusts that the lawyers can raid for their billable hours – and, oh, yeah, their clients*.
This is, by the way, a textbook case for tort reform. Which is why I am genuinely shocked that the NYT is letting somebody punch trial lawyers (a faithful backer of the Democratic party) in the nose over this – and using a Democratic Congresswoman in the process, no less. Is the Old Grey Lady involved in one of these cases? – Because that would explain much. It’s amazing just how conservative both people and media corporations can get when the situation gets personal.
PS: I wouldn’t wish lung cancer on my worst enemy. Prayers for Congresswoman McCarthy.
*Just as a reminder: John Edwards just looooooved him some tort lawyering, there. It’s pretty funny to read this 2001 Washington Monthly puff piece on the man, although certainly I don’t expect all of my past work to age well. Or even most of it, honestly. Still entertaining to compare past and present visions of tort lawyers, though.