Stephan Schmidheiny, a former primary shareholder in the cement production company Eternit Italia, has been sentenced to 12 years in jail on aggravated manslaughter charges linked to hundreds of asbestos-related deaths.
Asbestos was considered a “miracle mineral” for most of the 20th century due to its durable and heat-resistant properties. Eternit Italia’s factories used large amounts of the mineral in the cement production process. Incorporating asbestos into the company’s cement made it stronger and more appealing to consumers. However, consumers, employees and local residents were unaware of the health risks associated with asbestos.
This is a huge win for asbestos victims. According to the media, this is the most significant trial regarding workplace deaths in Italian history.
Details of the Historic Verdict
The billionaire was sentenced after being found guilty of causing the deaths of 392 people in Casale Monferrato, a Piedmont town once home to the largest Eternit Italia factory. Of the 392 victims, only 60 worked at the factory, which makes them victims of occupational asbestos exposure. The rest were residents of the town or surrounding areas.
Schmidheiny was ordered to pay €50M ($54.3 million in U.S. dollars) to the town’s local authority, €30M ($32.5 million) to the Italian state and €500M ($543 million) to a local organization for relatives of asbestos exposure victims. The Swiss billionaire is required to pay €580M ($629.8 million) in total damages.
The difference between Italian law and American law is the owner of the company is liable for workplace accidents or deaths. In the U.S., though, the company as a whole is liable. Schmidheiny was the only man on trial because he managed the cement factory from 1976 until it closed in 1986.
The cement factory’s waste products were crushed outside the facility, which means asbestos dust polluted the town
If you are a victim of asbestos exposure, you are entitled to legal compensation. The companies responsible for exposing innocent people to a cancerous substance need to be held accountable – just as Swiss billionaire Stephan Schmidheiny was. Fortunately, Mesothelioma Guide can connect you with highly experienced mesothelioma lawyers to handle your case.
Dangers of Asbestos
Although asbestos is a strong, durable and heat-resistant material, it is fairly fragile. With a slight disturbance, asbestos can crumble into weightless dust and float in the air. Once the substance enters the air, it can be easily inhaled or swallowed.
If asbestos enters the body, it can cause serious health issues. The microscopic, needle-like fibers can travel to the lungs, abdomen or heart and stick to the linings surrounding the organs. This can cause severe irritation and lead to cancerous tumors, such as mesothelioma, lung cancer and other health conditions.
Mesothelioma, one of the rarest types of cancer, can take decades to develop. Some symptoms of mesothelioma mimic other conditions, and victims – even doctors – may not identify the disease at first. This cancer is aggressive and spreads quickly, so it is important to know if you’re at risk due to past asbestos exposure.
To find out if you were exposed to asbestos, use our asbestos exposure sites search database. Mesothelioma Guide has compiled a directory of confirmed asbestos exposure sites as a helpful resource for victims of exposure.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, connect with our patient advocate and registered nurse, Karen Ritter. She can answer any health-related questions and connect you with doctors and treatment centers.
Sources & Author
Swiss billionaire jailed over asbestos-related deaths in Italian town. The Guardian. Retrieved from:https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/jun/08/stephan-schmidheiny-swiss-billionaire-jailed-over-asbestos-related-deaths-piedmont-italy. Accessed: 06/14/2023.
Sources & Author