During the 2014 VFW National Convention in St. Louis, MO, I had a second opportunity to speak with host Randy Miller on the VFW Talk Radio show, The National Defense. Sokolove Law was honored to be a returning sponsor of the convention – our presence there not only allows us to spread awareness and educate about the health dangers of asbestos and veteran legal rights, but also to thank veterans in person for their service.
Click below to listen to the interview (part 2) or read the transcript here:
Veterans Who Were Exposed to Asbestos Have Legal Rights
Veterans deserve their VA benefits — but those diagnosed with mesothelioma also have the right to pursue justice from the manufacturers of the asbestos-containing products that harmed them. Filing claims against these manufacturers does not affect VA benefits. Claims are not brought against the U.S. government.
How to Find a Mesothelioma Attorney
Randy and I also discussed the importance of finding the right mesothelioma lawyer. I encourage veterans to look for a firm that is a recognized leader in the asbestos litigation field. Additionally, having a national law firm that can help no matter where they live is important.
Sokolove Law Fights For Veterans
Sokolove Law is the first truly national law firm. With offices in 46 states, we can help veterans who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma find the best location to file their claims. At Sokolove Law, we are all committed to helping veterans get the justice they deserve.
Listen, Learn, and Call Us Today
Learn more by listening to both Sokolove Law interviews on the VFW Talk Radio show, The National Defense. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, call Sokolove Law today. We are here to help.
Announcer: Heard on great radio stations all across America, it’s the National Defense with Randy Miller and Jerry Newberry.
Randy Miller: This is the National Defense. Randy Miller along with Jerry Newberry, communications director for the VFW, and Jerry, as always, our dedication.
Jerry Newberry: Hey, this show’s for you, the men and women serving on active duty, the Guard and Reserves, it’s for the millions of veterans out there, and of course, it’s for all their families. We’re here for you. We love you. God bless you.
Randy Miller: Joined by a gentleman we had on the program a couple of weeks ago, it’s Ricky LeBlanc from the Sokolove Law group. Ricky, how are you?
Ricky LeBlanc: I’m well, thanks Randy. Thanks for having me on again.
Randy Miller: It’s great to see you here at the convention. We’re actually standing in your room here where you’ve held some seminars and question and answer sessions and kind of educated people about some of the different aspects of mesothelioma, and something that your law group especially is proficient at. Talk a little bit about some of the things that you’ve heard from people here and some of the confusion maybe with the VA and what you guys do.
Ricky LeBlanc: Sure Randy. Sokolove Law’s been coming to the VFW National Convention for the last few years. We’re a sponsor here. We love to help those who helped us and kept us free. What we talk about during this presentation is we go through early warning signs of the disease, then we answer some questions. We try to arm our veterans with knowledge so that they’re better prepared to figure out their own diagnosis.
We get a lot of questions about is it timely? Can I do this now? Is it too late? And my answer to everybody is it’s never too late to call a lawyer and find out. We ask you to call Sokolove Law, give us your facts and we’ll try to help you figure it out.
The other thing we find is a lot of questions people have about the tort system, which is the court system that you go when you have a civil wrong against you versus VA benefits. Many of them get confused and they think this is all about getting benefits from the VA. The VA are your benefits. You’re veterans, you’ve earned them. Go get them.
What I’m talking to people about is you have rights outside the VA. It’s time to go and hold accountable the businesses who made profits on selling these defective and dangerous products to the U.S. military.
Randy Miller: You know, you bring up a good point here, Ricky, and this kind of goes back to the military mentality, too. We talk about this on the show a lot where these guys, okay, I just want what I deserve. I want what I earned and nothing more than that. I did my job. I’m back. I served my country, I’m good.
Well, maybe you’re not good, right?
Ricky LeBlanc: Yeah. You didn’t deserve lung cancer or mesothelioma and you got that too, and so it’s time to hold people accountable for that. The companies that did this, they knew that they were going to injure someone. They may not know they were going to injure you, but they knew they were going to injure somebody with these products and they just kept selling them and making the profits.
Randy Miller: The other question you get a lot, too, about how do I find a good attorney? How do I find the right attorney? You know, a lot of people – I just had a buddy of mine that went through this same thing – when you’re looking for a specific attorney for a very personal reason like mesothelioma, how do you do that? How do you find somebody you can trust?
Ricky LeBlanc: First thing you do is find somebody you can trust. How do you do that is you do some research and you try to figure it out. You look at something like a Sokolove Law, my firm. We represent people across the entire country, so the guy down the street may be a wonderful lawyer but may know nothing about mesothelioma. It’s not really the place to start.
The place to start is look for people who are recognized out there as leaders in the field and people who can handle your case no matter where it brings them because especially with veterans, they’re rarely exposed in their back yard. They weren’t exposed at the plant down the street.
They grew up in Iowa and then they joined the Army and they ended up in Georgia. They served in Georgia and then they went to Germany and they came back to North Carolina, and so their exposure could have been multiple jurisdictions.
Having a national law firm that can handle it no matter where it is is probably most important to veterans.
Randy Miller: What about that? Let’s talk about exposure situation for just a minute. So you’re maybe exposed in one area and you don’t know that you’re entitled to that lawsuit or litigation against that company. How do you gauge the exposure and where these guys have been exposed to the asbestos?
Ricky LeBlanc: We end up, as a law firm, we end up being investigators. You come to us, you tell us your story, and that’s where we take over. It’s our job to figure out where were you exposed and what the products were. It’s not just important to know that, “oh I know there was asbestos at this work site”.
I have to go as a lawyer, we have to go out there and say, “okay, whose asbestos was it? What manufacturer put that asbestos there?” We do the research. We go find co-workers who may remember buying it directly from the manufacturer or the distributor. We look at the distributor’s and manufacturer’s records and we pull those records to see did they ever sell them to where you were?
Obviously the military helps us out a great deal. We go through their records and they know exactly what they bought and what they put on a ship, and so they give us a list of all the manufacturers and that starts the process going.
Randy Miller: That’s especially helpful here at the VFW National Convention. A group like Sokolove Law that can instruct these folks on what to do, where to get the resources and education on a condition like mesothelioma. The thing about this particular deadly disease is that it’s fast. I mean, I think that in a lot of cases, your client is not there for the trial, right?
Ricky LeBlanc: Yeah. The good news is that very few of these cases go to a trial. Less than 6% across the country was the last statistic I saw on that. At Sokolove Law, even lower numbers because once you’ve beaten the defendants up enough, they know that you’ve got the goods and they’re not going to fight you to the end. They don’t want the evidence to come out because it makes them look bad and jurors are going to punish them, so those cases settle.
If you’re in the right jurisdictions, which because as a national firm Sokolove Law can usually get you in the right courthouse, they have expedited dockets, meaning they’ve got courthouses that are set up for this and will move a living mesothelioma victim’s case through very quickly.
Oftentimes from the time that you hire a lawyer to the time that Sokolove Law can get you a trial date is under a year. With a disease that moves very quickly and can take a life in less than a year, that’s very important to our clients.
Randy Miller: I think you said something really vital there. That’s pretty good. Less than a year, because this disease, it happens fast. I’ve seen it personally happen, and it’s a very, very swift moving condition. I guess with the resources that Sokolove Law has and, like you said, the multi jurisdictions. You guys can practice anywhere in the country, correct?
Ricky LeBlanc: 46 states we have licenses, so just about everywhere. What you find is that some states have set up these systems to allow to have living mesothelioma cases go through faster, some states have it by law, they have to be heard faster, but that’s just the lawsuit. That’s what drives defendants to want to pay money, but oftentimes our clients are receiving money in three to six months from the time they call us, not a year later, because some of the clients we already know and they know we’ve got the evidence on them, they start settling out sooner and they don’t have to wait for the trial.
By the time you get to a trial, they’re usually down to only one defendant or two defendants that are holding out, and those are the ones we put their feet to the fire.
Randy Miller: How many times do you go after the same folks? Do they say, here comes Ricky again?
Ricky LeBlanc: It’s funny. You end up knowing defense counsel because it’s the same people on every case over and over again, and our firm, I don’t want you to think it’s me going into every courtroom. There’s over 55 lawyers that we have dedicated to just doing mesothelioma.
Randy Miller: Is that right? 55 lawyers at your firm just for mesothelioma?
Ricky LeBlanc: In our firm and in associated firms. We have law firms that we work with in other jurisdictions, and we can bring those in. That’s just, like I say, 55 lawyers to that. That’s not the lung cancers and asbestosis cases. Those are another group of lawyers that handle those, so it’s set up to get justice for people. Justice delayed is justice denied, right? It’s an old expression.
Randy Miller: Absolutely. What about the, since we’re here at the VFW National Convention, what if something happens that’s not military related and they come to you? You know, you talk to a veteran and they say I’m not exactly sure where I got in touch with the asbestos. It could have been on a ship. It may not have been. What if it happened after their military career?
Ricky LeBlanc: Again, we’re not talking about VA benefits, so whether it’s service-related or not is irrelevant to us. We come to the convention, though, because less than 1% of Americans serve in the military, yet 40% of our mesothelioma victims are service people. We recognized early on that this is a group of people who, not only in the service but also in the trades when they leave the service, continue to be exposed.
I had a guy at the convention come up to me just a few hours ago that said, “What about printing presses? I worked as a printer afterwards and we used to use asbestos around the hot pots and they could come and mix it and wrap it around the pots.”
I said, “You know, I’ve had two printers I think, if I can remember, in my career, and both of them were the maintenance guys at the print shop which were doing all kinds of other kind of work, but the actual guys running the presses I never had, but I can see how it could happen because the maintenance guy’s not doing it in a vacuum. He’s doing it right next door to the guy who’s running the machines, so he’s probably getting exposed there, too.”
Randy Miller: What are some of the other industries? I know the auto industry certainly is big in the meso field. What else?
Ricky LeBlanc: The auto industry, we call that the friction products, which means ones that are designed to rub. Brakes, clutches are mainly those products, but any industry with high heat, so if you are in a power plant or you are working in a steel mill or any place that has high heat usually uses asbestos because of its propensities and its ability to stand up and withstand high temperatures.
We’re talking about all the trades, whether you were a plumber, an electrician, a dry-waller, a painter, HVAC, because you all work next to each other and they’re all using it. If you take a room like we’re standing in today, Randy, and you think about when it was built, if it was built in the ’60s rather than this new complex we’re in, but if it was, the floor you’re standing on would be some type of asbestos-containing tile because it’s very strong. The walls would be made of sheetrock, which in most cases are probably okay, but the joint compound they put over it is not, and that guys has to be sanded down. The exhaust will go everywhere.
The ceiling tiles you see above are acoustic ceiling tiles. Those ceiling tiles, in the ’60s and ’70s, easily would have been made out of asbestos. The roof on this building with asphalt shingles would also be asbestos. The outside walls, asbestos, so anyone in the building trade is highly exposed, but also anybody in oil refineries or, as I said before, power plants, et cetera, where there’s high heat is probably exposed as well.
Randy Miller: Mesothelioma, too, is one of those conditions that doesn’t show up until late, late, late after you’ve been involved with asbestos sometimes. I know with my friend it did. It was later in life.
I think the thought here, and the great thing about you guys being at the national convention is that get that education now. Even if you don’t have mesothelioma. Especially if you don’t have mesothelioma, right?
Ricky LeBlanc: Yeah, I always say I hope I never represent you to every person I meet, because nobody wants someone to have mesothelioma. It’s your typical 30 to 50 years later is when people are going to be coming up with this disease. As I say every day in the seminars we have here at the national convention, I tell them, “I can’t stop you from getting mesothelioma. You were exposed maybe before I was born.” World War II guys that come in, right?
I can’t stop it. You either have it in you or you don’t. What I can do is arm you with information about early warning signs. I can tell you the most important lesson I give all of them. Tell your doctor you were exposed to asbestos. If you don’t tell him, he’s not looking for it or she’s not looking for it. They’re not going to look for asbestos. They’re going to think you have pneumonia or low back pain from working around the house. They’re not going to equate it to the fact that it may actually be a more deadly or serious condition like mesothelioma or lung cancer.
Randy Miller: Ricky, have these mesothelioma cases, have they plateaued? I’ve heard from some people that maybe the cases have plateaued. They’ve gotten to a point where they’re manageable numbers-wise.
Ricky LeBlanc: We hit a high a few years ago, but it’s negligible, the difference. We’re still at about 3,000 to 3,200 mesothelioma diagnoses in the U.S. every year. That number’s hovered around that for quite some time. It’s always been estimated somewhere between 2,500 and 3,500 and it hasn’t changed. Maybe before it was closer to 3,500 and 3,700 instead of 3,200. It really hasn’t. We don’t see anything happening to it mostly likely for another 20 or 30 years.
Randy Miller: Again, where can people get more information on Sokolove Law and find out how to contact you?
Ricky LeBlanc: It’s the modern world, right? You go to the web. You can go to Sokolove Law at SokoloveLaw.com and you’ll find a lot of information there. We also have another site called Mesothelioma Help Now that could also be helpful to you, too. That’s MesotheliomaHelpNow.com or SokoloveLaw.com.
Speaker 3: We’re standing guard with the truth. The National Defense.