Marine veteran John Johnson recently lost his battle with mesothelioma. Instead of spending his final days with family, he spent them in a room with the defense lawyers in his mesothelioma lawsuit.
An article in The Los Angeles Times suggests that the defendants intentionally dragged out Johnson’s deposition.
I’m not surprised at any delay tactics. That’s common in litigation.
But I’m still appalled at what happened to Johnson. As I mentioned in last week’s post about Johnson, I can imagine things that could have been done to prevent his suffering.
An asbestos lawsuit case process is governed by rules which both sides try to use to their client’s advantage. For better or worse, legal maneuvering is par for the course during litigation.
But if you’re thinking about filing an asbestos claim, it’s helpful to know what to expect.
Rules of Engagement
If you’ve visited Asbestos.com’s legal section or read this blog regularly, you probably know that courts are overwhelmed by the large number of asbestos cases.
That won’t change any time soon. Many are concerned that defendants will run out of money to compensate all asbestos victims. That’s why some courts rely on rules like medical requirements to limit claims.
But asbestos lawsuits aren’t the only types of cases filling court dockets. Courts simply can’t hold lengthy trials for every case.
Rules help limit the issues that will be addressed at trial. Many rules are also designed to encourage settlement and avoid a trial altogether.
This means both sides have multiple opportunities to use the rules to get the best result for their clients.
For instance, a plaintiff may suspect the defendant is hiding a damaging piece of evidence. So his attorney might try to find it by prolonging discovery. But if a plaintiff’s medical condition is very severe, his attorney might push for a quicker trial.
Defendants, on the other hand, often to try to drag a case out longer than a plaintiff can afford to wait for justice.
I remember the first case I ever worked on as a paralegal at a large law firm. I was fresh out of college and eager to learn about the law. The case had been filed long before I graduated. We represented the defendant.
My first day on the case, the senior paralegal took me to a large room filled with lots of paper. The first thing she told me about the case was what the lead attorney promised the client. He didn’t promise to win at trial. He didn’t promise to settle for a small amount. He didn’t even promise to persuade the court to dismiss the case.
He promised to drag the case into the next millennium. It was only 1996.
He wasn’t able to keep his promise. But client got something better. The plaintiffs ran out of money. They withdrew the case well before 2000.
Games Asbestos Plaintiffs Can’t Afford to Play
Fortunately, the stakes weren’t that high on that case. No one’s health or life was on the line.
If you plan on filing an asbestos claim, it’s important to find a mesothelioma attorney who is familiar with the games asbestos defendants sometimes play. It’s also important to find an experienced attorney who can handle your case so you don’t have to take precious attention away from your health care.
Next week: Tips on dealing with case process without compromising your health.
(This is the second in a series about the case process. This month we’ll take a look at the sometimes ugly truth about litigation and how you can make the most of the process.)