Last modified: March 25, 2021
Types of Mesothelioma Lawsuits
If your family is bearing the burden of mesothelioma, an asbestos exposure lawsuit may be right for you and your loved ones. The steps for filing a mesothelioma lawsuit vary depending on the type of claim filed.
The two types of legal claims your family may be able to file through asbestos litigation include:
- 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.
|Compensation Type||Average Amount|
|Trial Award||$2.4 million|
|Settlement||$1 million to $1.4 million|
Why Should You File an Asbestos Lawsuit?
Compensation from an asbestos lawsuit can reduce financial hardships for you and your family.
Mesothelioma lawsuits can provide money for:
- Treatments not covered by insurance
- Travel expenses
- Pain and suffering related to the illness
- Funeral expenses and end-of-life decisions
- A stable future for your loved ones
A qualified mesothelioma attorney can help you decide whether to pursue a lawsuit and guide you through the process.
Filing a Mesothelioma Lawsuit
1. Choose an Attorney
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.
2. Discovery Phase
Answer your attorney’s questions about your asbestos exposure history, work history and medical history. This is part of a mesothelioma case review.
3. Provide Testimony
Work with your lawyer if they need additional testimony for your case. You might need to answer additional questions about your work history and asbestos exposure history.
4. Consider Different Types of Claims
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.
5. File Mesothelioma Lawsuit
Once all the relevant information is gathered, your attorney will file your lawsuit on your behalf and manage the legal proceedings. They will advise you on whether to take a settlement offer or negotiate for additional compensation.
Are You Eligible to File an Asbestos Lawsuit?
- 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.
- You are within the statute of limitations, which varies from one to a few years depending on the state.
To file a wrongful death lawsuit:
- The representative of the deceased patient’s estate, which can include a family member, needs to determine whether to proceed and act as the decision maker during the legal process.
If an asbestos company is liable for your exposure and they filed for bankruptcy:
- Your lawyer may help you file a trust fund claim instead of a lawsuit.
Your options for compensation may also include private health insurance, Medicare or Medicaid, Social Security disability benefits or filing a claim with the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Veterans with mesothelioma cannot sue the military over asbestos exposure, but they can sue the private companies that supplied asbestos products to the military.
Filing a Lawsuit in Your State
You may be able to file a mesothelioma lawsuit outside of the state you live. An experienced attorney can help you and your family decide the best court to file your asbestos claim.
According to a 2020 KCIC industry report, more than 4,000 mesothelioma claims were filed throughout the U.S. in 2019.
These are the key states for asbestos litigation:
Notable Asbestos Lawsuit Verdicts
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.
- 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.
Common Questions About Mesothelioma Lawsuits
- How Long Does a Mesothelioma Lawsuit Take?
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.
In personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits, plaintiffs must file a claim soon after an injury occurs. Statutes of limitations set a time limit, usually around two years, for a plaintiff to file a lawsuit after they are injured.
Asbestos litigation is unique in the legal landscape because statutes of limitations were adapted to offer justice to the victims of asbestos exposure. Asbestos-related diseases have a latency period ranging from 20 to 50 years from the time of first exposure, and the first exposure is considered the point at which the injury occurred.
Applying conventional statutes of limitations to a plaintiff’s first asbestos exposure would bar them from filing a claim. Instead, the law requires plaintiffs to file a claim within two years of being diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, the point at which the plaintiff realizes they have an injury.
Asbestos regulations in the U.S. began with the passage of the Clean Air Act of 1970. Since then, several asbestos products have been banned. The U.S. hasn’t fully banned asbestos, but it remains regulated at federal, state and local levels.
More than 50 countries have fully banned asbestos including Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia. Canada banned it in 2018, the U.K. in 2006 and Australia in 2003. Asbestos litigation in these countries continues to sort out norms for compensation and liability.
For example, in the U.K., the House of Lords decided in 2007 that pleural plaques caused by occupational asbestos exposure did not qualify a plaintiff for compensation. U.S. courts have upheld the same stance on pleural plaques for decades.
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.
Tort Laws Pave Way for Asbestos Litigation
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
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.
Asbestos Litigation Shifts to Online Practices
Asbestos attorneys have transitioned to virtual and teleconferencing services to prevent infection risks for mesothelioma patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mesothelioma lawyers now provide remote virtual consultations to help clients file mesothelioma claims during coronavirus without missing deadlines due to restricted travel or health issues. Attorneys can handle some aspects of the legal process through video calls or electronic signatures.
Asbestos law firms are also working to move mesothelioma claims through the system, despite the closure of many courts during the pandemic. Patients have been able to file some claims while the courts are closed, and local court officials have given priority to certain terminally ill cases.
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.
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