If your family is bearing the burden of mesothelioma, asbestos litigation may be right for you and your loved ones. There are two types of legal claims your family may be able to file.
Personal Injury Claims: A person diagnosed with mesothelioma is eligible to file a personal injury lawsuit against the companies responsible for exposing them to asbestos. Asbestos liability is usually based on companies’ failure to warn employees and consumers about the dangers linked to inhaling the toxic mineral. When compensation is awarded in personal injury lawsuits, mesothelioma patients are the recipients.
Wrongful Death Claims: The estate of a deceased mesothelioma patient is eligible to file a wrongful death claim, seeking compensation to cover medical bills, funeral expenses and lost income. Similarly, if a mesothelioma patient files a personal injury lawsuit but passes away before it is resolved, the estate may continue the claim. When compensation is awarded in wrongful death lawsuits, the estate is the recipient.
Step 1: The first step in a successful filing process is choosing an attorney experienced in asbestos litigation. Top mesothelioma law firms will provide you with a free consultation to talk about your case and go over your legal options.
Step 2: Answer your attorney’s questions about your asbestos exposure history, work history and medical history.
Step 3: Work with your lawyer if they need additional testimony for your case.
Once your claim is filed, your attorney will manage the legal proceedings and will advise you on whether to take a settlement offer or negotiate for additional compensation.
Your attorney will also advise you on filing other types of claims that you are eligible for. Whether you file a personal injury lawsuit, a wrongful death lawsuit or a claim with an asbestos trust, a skilled attorney will help you prepare all the documentation needed to back up your claim.
Are You Eligible to File an Asbestos Lawsuit?
You are typically eligible to file a mesothelioma lawsuit if:
You can provide documentation of the mesothelioma diagnosis, including medical reports from the cancer center where you or your loved one were treated.
You can document the asbestos exposure history that caused the mesothelioma. This can include employment records as well as detailed descriptions and testimony about the asbestos exposure.
These payouts are known as trial verdicts, and they are often higher than what a patient may receive from a settlement offer or a trust fund claim.
$250 million awarded to a retired steel worker in 2003 over exposure to asbestos insulation
$75 million awarded to the wife of a race car driver in 2017 over exposure to asbestos-containing engine gaskets
$48 million awarded to the family of a construction worker in 2012 over exposure to asbestos in building materials
$29.4 million awarded in a talc lawsuit to a long-time talcum powder user in 2019 over exposure to asbestos-contamination
$18.6 million awarded to the family of a factory worker in 2014 over asbestos exposure at a tire plant
$18 million awarded to a barber’s son in 2016 over exposure to asbestos-contaminated talcum powder
Mesothelioma Lawsuit Process
Your attorney will gather information about your history of asbestos exposure to determine who is responsible for your condition and where to file your lawsuit. You may be eligible to file your lawsuit in more than one jurisdiction.
Your lawyer will prepare and file a written complaint with a court to start the legal process.
Because many years have likely passed since your asbestos exposure, the responsible company could now be a different company or be bankrupt. It may take some time to locate and serve the appropriate people with your complaint. Your attorney will oversee this process.
Each defendant in your lawsuit will receive a copy of your complaint. They will have a certain amount of time, usually 30 days, to respond.
Defendants rarely admit fault. They most likely will deny your claims and argue your complaint is not valid or someone else is responsible for your exposure to asbestos. Your attorney will reply to each defendant’s responses.
Defendants may allege that:
Exposure to asbestos and other toxic substances happened at home or elsewhere, not just at work.
Your family history shows significant health problems among relatives.
Smoking, drinking or drug use caused your health problems.
You worked at other places where asbestos was a bigger problem.
Defendants may also include a settlement request in their response, but this is rare. Companies may be willing to settle right away in order to avoid a lengthy and costly lawsuit. However, the first settlement offer may be very low.
Expect to wait until closer to trial, or during the trial itself, to receive a reasonable offer.
Lawyers on both sides will gather information about your allegations, asking the other side to answer written questions, produce documents and participate in depositions. Some of the information may become evidence used at trial.
You may need to participate in a videotaped deposition and answer questions under oath from the defendants’ lawyers. This is often done from the comfort of your own home and under the guidance of your attorney.
Discovery may take several months, but if you are very sick, your attorney may ask the court to speed the process along before your condition worsens.
Before a trial starts, defendants may offer to resolve the case by offering you money. Mesothelioma settlements depend on multiple factors and can influence your decision of whether to go to trial.
If you decline a settlement offer, it’s possible the defendant will make another offer. Your attorney will negotiate on your behalf.
Settlements and trial verdicts vary depending on the case. While verdicts typically produce more compensation, settlements may award claimants quicker. This can make it easier to pay for cancer treatments and expenses.
Going to trial is rare. Even if a case does go to court, you may not be required to appear. The trial process varies depending on where you file a claim. Results depend on your history of asbestos exposure, the state where the lawsuit is filed, your medical history and other factors.
If you win and the defendant does not appeal, you will usually start receiving payments a few months after the verdict.
If you win the trial, defendants may decide to file an appeal. There is a limited amount of time to file an appeal, usually between 30 and 180 days from the time the verdict is given. This will delay any monetary award, but defendants will need to post “bond” for the amount awarded while the appeal proceeds.
If the defendants lose their appeal, you will start receiving payments. If the appeal is successful, defendants may end up paying a smaller amount or nothing at all.
The legal process for an asbestos-related lawsuit depends on the health of the plaintiff. If you are in poor health, the entire process may be expedited. If there is no urgency, the process may take several months or longer.
In either case, the defendant typically tries to drag out the process. Your attorney will work to resolve your case as quickly as possible. They will handle each step so you can focus on your health and spend time with your loved ones.
Will I Need to Travel?
You typically will not need to travel. Mesothelioma attorneys can often handle the entire case process from their office and travel to you when necessary.
The location where you file can affect the length of the case process. Your attorney will help you choose the best jurisdiction for your case. It may be necessary to file outside the state where you live.
How Much Do Mesothelioma Lawyers Charge?
Most mesothelioma law firms work on a contingency-fee basis. This typically means your attorney gets paid if you agree to a settlement or win your lawsuit. When you settle or win a case, a percentage of the award will be paid to your lawyer. If not, you pay no attorney fees.
What Should You Expect from a Mesothelioma Lawsuit?
It is difficult to say what you should expect from a mesothelioma lawsuit because every case is different. Results depend on your history with asbestos exposure, the state where the lawsuit is filed, your medical history and other factors.
Should I Join a Class-Action Lawsuit?
In general, mesothelioma class-action lawsuits are uncommon. Patients with mesothelioma and their families usually have a better chance of getting the compensation they deserve through a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit. You may be able to join a multidistrict litigation, where individual claims are grouped and processed without lumping plaintiffs into a single class. The largest MDL for mesothelioma cases is managed by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
History of Asbestos Litigation
Asbestos litigation is considered the longest-running mass tort in U.S. history, dating to the late 1960s.
Doctors Prove Asbestos Causes Cancer
The medical research of Dr. Irving J. Selikoff, Dr. Jacob Churg and Dr. E. Cuyler Hammond proved conclusively that asbestos exposure causes lung damage and disease. There had been evidence among asbestos workers for decades, but the industry had managed to cover it up until then.
A 1965 publication by The American Law Institute called “The Restatement of the Law of Torts” stated in section 402A that anyone “who sells any product in a defective condition unreasonably dangerous to the user or consumer or to his property is liable for the harm caused by that product to the consumer or end user.”
It also explained this would not include unsafe products as long as they were “accompanied by proper directions and warning.” Courts decided asbestos manufacturers knew the dangers of asbestos exposure but failed to appropriately warn asbestos workers and consumers. This opened the floodgates for asbestos-related lawsuits.
First Asbestos Lawsuit Filed
Insulation worker Claude Tomplait was diagnosed with asbestosis in July 1966. Attorney Ward Stephenson filed the first asbestos products lawsuit on Tomplait’s behalf in December 1966.
The defendants were 11 manufacturers of asbestos insulation products, including Johns Manville, Fibreboard Paper Products and Owens-Corning Fiberglas. The case went to trial on May 12, 1969, and the verdict came a week later in favor of the defendants.
Borel v. Fibreboard Paper Products
In October 1969, Stephenson represented one of Tomplait’s co-workers, Clarence Borel. He had developed mesothelioma while working in the shipyards and oil refineries along the Texas-Louisiana border.
Stephenson once again filed a lawsuit, seeking $1 million in damages, against numerous asbestos manufacturers across America. This time, the result was different.
Borel died of mesothelioma in June 1970 and, unfortunately, never heard the final disposition from the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. In 1973, a verdict in the amount of $79,436 was awarded to Borel’s estate.
1980 – Present
Asbestos Tort Litigation Grows
Buoyed by the success of Borel v. Fibreboard, asbestos workers turned to tort litigation to obtain compensation for their injuries. Other countries created centralized benefits systems for injured workers, but mesothelioma patients in the U.S. were forced to rely on lawsuits.
Although there is no national registry for asbestos personal injury claims, independent reports show asbestos litigation has grown significantly during the past several decades. The RAND Institute for Civil Justice began analyzing asbestos litigation in the early 1980s.
According to RAND’s findings, approximately 730,000 people in the U.S. filed compensation claims for asbestos-related injuries from the early 1970s through the end of 2002. It cost businesses and insurance companies more than $70 billion.
The total number of companies sued jumped from 300 to 8,400 between 1982 and 2002. By 2013, the number of asbestos defendants had grown to more than 10,000 companies.
Mesothelioma Lawsuits Today
Thousands of mesothelioma lawsuits are still filed every year.
A total of 4,029 asbestos lawsuits were filed in 2018, including more than 2,000 related to mesothelioma, according to a KCIC industry report.
Asbestos lawsuits are often the best way to obtain compensation for financial hardships related to a mesothelioma diagnosis. The best advice when considering filing a lawsuit is to seek the legal assistance of an experienced mesothelioma lawyer.