The wives of two men who were exposed to asbestos and later injured both filed lawsuits Sept. 14 in West Virginia’s Kanawha Circuit Court.
West Virginia, especially Kanawah County, is a busy jurisdiction for asbestos litigation. Some have even described it as a plaintiff-friendly jurisdiction. However, every case ultimately depends on its own unique set of facts.
These two cases are no exception. It’s difficult to predict what will happen in any case.
However, the similarities and differences between these two cases show how individual facts can affect case filing and litigation strategy. So let’s take a closer look at both lawsuits:
Asbestos Case Similarities
Both lawsuits name multiple defendants, including the husbands’ employers, premise owners for the husbands’ job sites, and various manufacturers of products that contain asbestos. In fact, the lawsuits share many of the same defendants including, 3M Company, Foster Wheeler Corporation and Pneumo Abex Corporation.
Both cases are based on similar claims of negligence, contaminated buildings, strict liability, conspiracy, misrepresentation and failure to warn, among other claims.
Both men were smokers, and both quit several years ago. When paired with asbestos exposure, smoking may contribute to the development of asbestos- related diseases. For that reason, the defendants may try to limit their liability by arguing that smoking contributed to the men’s injuries.
Smoking combined with asbestos exposure increases the risk of developing lung cancer more than either factor alone. Researchers disagree over the connection between smoking and asbestosis.
However, both men in these cases were diagnosed with mesotheliom. There is no proven connection between smoking and mesothelioma. Therefore, the smoking histories can be expected to have less impact on these two cases than if the men had developed other asbestos diseases like lung cancer.
Despite their similarities, the cases also have important differences worth noting.
The Peters Family
Mary J. Peters’ husband, Roscoe, worked as a laborer and electrician for Weirton Steel between 1950 and 1983. Her lawsuit alleges that her husband, 80, was exposed to asbestos-containing insulation at work.
The couple lives in Pennsylvania. They likely decided to file their lawsuit in West Virginia because Peters’ former employer is from West Virginia.
Having at least one defendant in the same state as the plaintiff usually keeps plaintiffs from filing in federal court. However, it wouldn’t be surprising if at least some defendants tried to remove the case to federal court. Even if a case lacks diversity jurisdiction, defendants sometimes try to remove the case to federal court as a delay tactic.
The Blankenship Family
Unlike Mary Peters, West Virginia resident Robin Blankenship filed her case alone. Her husband, Clyde, died of mesothelioma in June. He worked as a welder and mine operator from 1974 until earlier this year.
There are usually three scenarios where a spouse files an asbestos legal claim.
- In the Peters case, she joined her husband’s lawsuit.
- Surviving spouses, like Robin Blankenship, may be eligible to file wrongful death lawsuits.
- If an asbestos claimant files a lawsuit, but dies before the claim is resolved, the surviving spouse usually has an option step in and continue the case on his or her behalf.
Although it’s possible to pursue an asbestos legal claim after an asbestos claimant dies, the case may be more difficult to prove without his or her input.
Sadly, some asbestos defendants purposefully delay cases in hopes that the plaintiff will die before trial. They see advantages to removing the plaintiffs’ input and potentially reducing the amount of compensation they’ll have to pay.
Remember it’s always best to consult a qualified mesothelioma attorney about your eligibility to file a claim, the claim filing process and your case’s potential strengths and weaknesses.