Respecting the Past: Legal Counsel for Scrappers Ignores the Sacrifice of Greater Detroit’s True Working-Class

Detroit and its suburbs were once a symbol of American industry and work ethic. High-rise apartments, skyscrapers, and business centers dotted the motor-city skyline. Now, many of those once-proud structures are abandoned and individuals known as “scrappers” are entering into them to salvage the copper piping and wiring, much of which can be sold to junkyards and wholesale lots for cash.

Unfortunately, there is a hidden danger in scrapping – an activity which may be illegal and is discouraged by many – because a great deal of these abandoned buildings were constructed with asbestos-containing materials. By breaking open walls and floors to get at these valuable metals, scrappers are also stirring up asbestos fibers that can cause Mesothelioma and destroy the lungs when inhaled. Some scrappers even become “scrapers” by using their hands to scrape off the layers of asbestos that often coat these old pipes and structural metals. In the greater Detroit area, law firms are stringing up advertisements and encouraging scrappers to seek legal counsel for asbestos-exposure.

Back in Detroit’s heyday, these buildings were built, and later populated by, the hardworking Americans of thriving industries, and there is no doubt that a great deal of these men and women were exposed to asbestos. Unlike these people, scrappers' illnesses can be avoided by simply staying clear of dangerous environments. By encouraging scrappers to pursue compensation for their asbestos-related diseases, attention is being driven away from those hardworking men and women who worked directly with asbestos-containing materials to build these buildings, as well as those who toiled away in the asbestos-containing buildings for decades. If any group should be supported or encouraged to seek compensation, it should be those who put in the hard work to transform the greater Detroit area from a rural outpost to a center of international business and manufacturing.

A great example of this transformation is Detroit’s northern suburb, Southfield. Southfield may best be described as the American Dream in action – it began as a rural farming community, but started to rapidly expand after the advent of automobiles attracted people and industry in droves. The earliest of Southfield's modern buildings and complexes were automobile factories and offices. Later, in the second-half of the 1940's, television boomed in popularity and major networks moved to town, establishing state-of-the-art offices and studios – many facilities of which were built with asbestos-containing construction materials.

As Southfield's population continued to increase throughout the 1950’s, companies like Standard Oil, Michigan Bell, and Bendix Research moved in. The influx of both industry and employees led to the construction of more office buildings, factories, and high-rise apartments.

The people who lived and worked in these buildings were a vast and diverse set of individuals who did everything from tightening lug nuts to commanding industrial empires. This is the ideal America, and suburbs such as Southfield are representative of incredible development – turning farmland into a magnet for cutting edge technology and Fortune 500 companies.

Southfield's history of hard work and progress is important to keep in mind when considering that many of these workers now suffer from diseases that were caused by exposure to the asbestos-containing materials so common in the construction materials of the 20th century. Asbestos is a dangerous carcinogen, the negative effects of which have been known and documented for centuries. The generations of entrepreneurs and skilled tradesman who made Southfield and greater Detroit a beacon of progress were also a generation whose families and friends suffered from lung damage and mesothelioma.

Most victims of mesothelioma are men over the age of 65 who have worked in heavy industry fields. Many of these individuals have sacrificed their health and wellbeing to perform a necessary job or duty, and many of them deserve to be compensated. Often, mesothelioma isn’t diagnosed until it is already in an advanced stage. This is because it can take 20-50 years for symptoms to emerge. As a result, the disease becomes fatal for people who don’t get help until it’s too late.

The families of mesothelioma victims are often crushed, both emotionally and financially, by the death and suffering caused by mesothelioma. When families are able to receive compensation, that compensation – even when substantial – still cannot compare to the losses they have suffered.

Seeking legal counsel for mesothelioma and other diseases related to asbestos-exposure is not a game to be played for easy money; instead it is a means for spirited, selfless and hard-working men and women to receive the justice and compensation they deserve for building this nation's economy. We must all treat it this way in order to respect their sacrifice.

Sokolove Law Team

Contributing Authors

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Last modified: October 4, 2017