Italian Case Against Eternit
On January 23, 2009, an eagerly anticipated announcement was made. A preliminary hearing into the Eternit Group's allegedly negligent behavior in exposing Italian citizens to asbestos would begin at the Palace of Justice, Turin on April 6, 2009.1 This is the culmination of years of research and preparation by Prosecutor Raffaele Guariniello and his team who are mounting the largest legal action to be held in Turin. The charges are being brought against the Swiss company's officers 62-year old Stephen Schmidheiny, a Swiss billionaire and 88-year old Baron Luis Jan Marie Ghislain De Cartier De Marchienne from Belgium on behalf of 2,619 former Eternit employees2 from factories in Casale Monferrato (Alessandria), Cavagnolo (Turin), Rubiera (Reggio Emilia) and Bagnoli (Naples), and 270 family members or local residents who received para-occupational3 or environmental exposure to Eternit asbestos.4
The Prosecutor will allege that even though the company knew of the dangers of working with asbestos, it did not take measures such as providing personal protective equipment or improving indoor ventilation systems to protect the workers; steps which could have prevented local people from harmful exposures to Eternit asbestos such as the laundering of work clothes by the company or better control of asbestos emissions by the factory were also not implemented. The consequences of these failures to act were the asbestos-related diseases contracted by the nearly 3,000 plaintiffs. In order to disseminate news of the court date to the thousands of interested parties, public proclamations will be issued and official notices of the proceedings will be displayed at town halls in Turin, Cavagnalo, Naples, Rubiera and Monferrato. The news will also be featured on internet websites including those run by the Piemonte Region, the city of Turin and the Region of Emilia Romagna.
January 25, 2009
1 There are 3 stages in this type of Italian court action; the proceedings which will commence on April 6 mark the beginning of stage 1. The judge for the preliminary hearings is Cristina Palmensino.
2 Most of these claimants are deceased.
3 Para-occupational exposure occurs, for example, when a wife washes a husband's asbestos-contaminated work clothes; environmental exposure can occur to people living near an asbestos processing factory.