CaliforniaAlthough it is not the "norm", it is not unusual to see wrongful death or personal injury claims related to asbestos exposure in cases where the plaintiff or the decedent suffered from colorectal cancer.  One cannot help but ask, "Can asbestos exposure, which typically is associated with respiratory illnesses such as asbestosis, pleural plaques and mesothelioma, cause cancer in the lower sections of the large intestine and rectum?"

intestinesA known plaintiffs' firm WFBM frequently defends cases against has attained at least three large plaintiff's verdicts in the last decade involving claims of colorectal cancer.  A San Francisco jury awarded $1,083,000 to a retired pipefitter who suffered from colon cancer in Merle Sandy v. Exxon Mobil Corp., 2006, Case No 324212; a San Francisco jury awarded $3.4 million in a colon cancer case titled Ralph Pierce v. Certainteed Corp., 2005, Case No 408642; and an Oregon jury in King County Superior Court awarded $1.5 million against a leading pipe and boiler insulation contractor who had colon cancer in Ray Sundberg v. ACandS, Inc., 2001, Case No 21756.  WFBM has significant experience with these types of injury claims having defended seventy-five cases involving colon cancer.

The colon is the main part of the large intestine which is the long muscular tube that food passes through during digestion.  The rectum is the final straight portion of the large intestine that acts as the temporary storage site for feces.  It is about 12 centimeters long.  Colon cancer ranks in different studies between the second and the fourth most common cancer in the United States and it is the number one cause of cancer deaths in non-smokers.

Many "life style" risk factors have been identified over the years which increase a person's likelihood of developing colorectal cancer.  These risk factors include a diet that is very high in animal protein, saturated fats and calories, and a diet low in fiber.  High alcohol consumption is also a risk factor, as is being overweight and not exercising.

Lawyers for plaintiffs point to an alleged increased risk for colorectal cancer in individuals who were exposed to asbestos.  The importance of a good medical defense cannot be overlooked in these types of cases which, from a glance, may only appear to be tenuously related to asbestos exposure. 

Defending these types of cases requires thorough discovery pertaining to the plaintiff's lifestyle, including diet, weight, and exercise.  Only with that type of information will defendants have a clear picture to paint to a future jury as to whether it was asbestos exposure or bad lifestyle decisions that caused this type of cancer.

CBT--headshot-web-name-PES--headshot-web-name-Feel free to contact the authors with any questions:  


Cyrian B. Tabuena at
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Senior Associate
Pamela E. Stevens at
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Or any WFBM attorney with whom you are working.