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Merlin Olsen suing NBC

by Bob Sassone, posted Jan 1st 2010 7:01PM
Merlin OlsenMerlin Olsen, who was a football player and then went on to become a sportscaster for NBC and an actor on such TV shows as Little House on the Prairie and Father Murphy, is suing NBC Studios, NBC Universal, and 20th Century Fox for exposing him to asbestos. Olsen was diagnosed with mesothelioma last year and is undergoing chemotherapy.

But the lawsuit doesn't stop there. Because he was exposed to asbestos at a job when he was around 11 years old and also exposed when he was an adult while working at a job involving drywall, Olsen is also suing Sherwin-Williams and Lennox Industries.

Hmmm, I have zero legal training (unless you count watching L.A. Law reruns as legal training), but I wonder if the fact that Olsen says that he was exposed to asbestos when he was younger will affect the lawsuit? Maybe he would have more luck suing the earlier companies rather than NBC?

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William Kendrick

I am 85 years old. I have worked with asbestos since 1945.as a boilermaker and later on as an ASBESTOS WORKER till I retired in 1991. I have handle all knds of asbestos.But the one thing that I never did was smoke. I thnk the combination of the two is the problem. I have had sevral xrays of my lungs and there is no problem. Never used a mask. Just getting old.

March 11 2010 at 8:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I am glad there is a discussion out here about mesothelioma and the Merlin Olsen, even if it's just in relation to the lawsuit.

But beyond that, I just want to remind everyone that mesothelioma is a deadly cancer caused by exposure to asbestos and that for years nobody has cared to do research to find treatments and a cure for it. The only nonprofit organization providing support to patients and over $6 million in research funds has been the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation. If anybody with mesothelioma stumbles upon these comments and they need help, they should most certainly contact the foundation and their nurse practitioner by calling at 877.363.6376 or visiting http://www.curemeso.org .

As much as everyone likes to

January 06 2010 at 5:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Or maybe he want's to make americans more aware of the dangers (known since the 1930s) of asbestos. Which has been banned from Europe for years.

January 02 2010 at 10:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to joe's comment
ken honeyman

i grew up in Somerville, NJ.. near THEE GRAND-DADDY of Asbestos production.... Ever hear of Johns-Manville?[Manville,NJ.] they were sued BIG time!!! they had to open a wing just for 'Meso' patients at the local hospital! then Super-Funds[your and my tax dollars at work] were used to Bulldoze the entire plant! about 2 ft. of concrete covers the site now-a shopping plaza is now built over this!!!

Now, do u think they went bankrupt over this??? GROW-UP---they moved to Colorado[clean air!]... Now they are called"The Manville corporation"---your 'Green' manufacturer! So is life and power in this 'OUR' United States!

January 05 2010 at 12:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

yeah I guess it is CBS, my mistake. Just goin off the top of my head there. I just know westinghouse, and whoever owns it, will be dealing with asbestos lawsuits for the next decade or two. If he was exposed to asbestos on the set of an NBC show, or at 30 Rock (the building, not the show), NBC would be a legitimate plaintiff to name in the suit. Gotta name everyone and then sort it out later, otherwise the lawyers are open to malpractice suits (didn't name a potential defendant, lose agianst the ones you do name, and then the statute of limitations runs so it's too late to sue the one not named initially).

January 02 2010 at 1:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

You're thinking of CBS... Westinghouse owned CBS, which was purchased by Viacom, which was in turn spun into CBS/Paramount or whatever the hell it is now...

I don't think it's the GE element of NBC that's the deal here... as it isn't GE, but rather NBC Studios and NBC/U he's suing... I wonder how he suggests he was exposed during an entertainment production? However, I'm sure he was. This doesn't sound like sour grapes as much as someone who has a legitimate complaint... I mean, I don't think he's suing pro football because he has aches...

January 02 2010 at 12:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Mike's comment

If Mr. Olsen is alleging asbestos exposure during his "Little House on the Prairie Days" he was invariably exposed to asbestos from the construction of sets, the breakdown of sets, and countless other ways.

January 04 2010 at 6:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I used to work for a lawfirm that did nothing other than sue Viacom for asbestos cases because Viacom purchased Westinghouse which used to make asbestos and asbestos products. A billion cases against one company - Viacom due to their liability that came with their purchase of Westinghouse. Asbestos causes mesothelioma.

Doesn't Viacom own NBC? I'll bet that's what is going on here. But one would have to read the actual legal pleadings to find out for sure.

January 01 2010 at 10:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm a safety engineer who has had some dealings with asbestos issues. The simplest explanation I can provide is with asbestos exposure a litigant names every possible point of exposure. That is every time they were exposed to asbestos. Each company (or insurance company handling the exposure complaints) Payments of damages are made out of a trust fund.

Bob, these two links will help you learn about Mesothelioma.



January 01 2010 at 8:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to fibrowitch's comment


The plaintiff sues every entity that exposed him or her to asbestos. He then has to prove that he has mesothelioma, that he was likely exposed to asbestos by each defendant, and that, at the time of each exposure, the "state of the art" was such that each defendant knew or should have known of the danger. This is pretty much easily determined before the case is even filed, as this has all been litigated 100 million times.

Once the plaintiff does this, it is up to the defendants to say why it is impossible that the plaintiff was exposed through that defendant's fault. But if you can't get off the hook there, then the defendants fight amongst themselves to determine who is going to pay what.

The fact that he was exposed early on is meaningless if he was then exposed again. Each exposure is actionable -- some courts hold that a single asbestos particle is actionable, and if you have more than one particle from more than one source, but you can't tell which particle came from which source, the courts let the burden be shifted to the defendants to say "not from me!" But the plaintiff gets paid -- its just a question of how much each defendant will have to shell out.

January 02 2010 at 8:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I too am in the midst of an asbestos claim. Since the disease can take
various lengths of time to manifest is's self all exposure is included. I
believe that mine came from my last employer who concealed the asbestos
in the building where I worked. Since it is a government entity, they will be
liable only if I die from an asbestos related ailment. My exposure started over
60 years ago in the school system when asbestos was considered a "safety"
material. Had it's use been curtailed when the danger first became known I doubt
there would have ever been any litigation.

March 11 2010 at 4:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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