Mesothelioma Lawsuit

Fact Checked

Filing a lawsuit can help those diagnosed with mesothelioma get the compensation they deserve. Mesothelioma is an almost entirely preventable cancer. Many companies that produced, distributed or used asbestos products knew of its dangers and failed to warn their employees.

File a Mesothelioma Lawsuit
Tim Povtak, Senior Writer for, explains the benefits of seeking legal help for mesothelioma patients and their families.
Tim Povtak, Senior Writer for, explains the benefits of seeking legal help for mesothelioma patients and their families.

Types of Lawsuits

If your family is bearing the burden of mesothelioma, asbestos litigation may be right for you. There are two types of legal claims you may be able to file.

Personal Injury Claims

A person diagnosed with mesothelioma may 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.

Wrongful Death Claims

The estate of a deceased mesothelioma patient may have the option to file a wrongful death claim, seeking compensation for medical bills, funeral expenses and lost income. Similarly, if a mesothelioma patient files a personal injury lawsuit but passes away before it’s resolved, the estate may continue the claim.

Average Mesothelioma Lawsuit Compensation Amounts
Compensation Type Average Amount
Trial Award $2.4 million
Settlement $1 million

Source: Mealey’s Litigation Report, 2016

Why Should You File a Mesothelioma Lawsuit?

After a mesothelioma diagnosis, it is natural for a person to focus only on their health. But if you or a loved one is diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, you should consider contacting a mesothelioma lawyer immediately.

Mesothelioma litigation may restore your family’s financial security when you are faced with large cancer-related medical bills and a loss of household income. But filing a mesothelioma lawsuit is a complicated and time-sensitive process. Choosing a lawyer trained in asbestos litigation is essential.

A qualified mesothelioma attorney can help you decide whether to pursue a lawsuit and guide you through the process. Mesothelioma lawsuits typically do not go to trial because they are settled out of court before the trial takes place.

How to File a Mesothelioma Lawsuit

The first step in a successful filing process is choosing an attorney experienced in mesothelioma litigation.

Asbestos exposure lawsuits are complex. The requirements for an effective claim depend on the mesothelioma patient’s individual circumstances and history. You have to figure out which jurisdiction to file in and then make sure you comply with the regulations there.

A mesothelioma lawyer can explain how these details will affect the process in your unique case.

Whether that means you file a personal injury lawsuit, a wrongful death lawsuit or a claim against an asbestos trust, a skilled attorney will help you prepare all the documentation needed to back up your claim.

Attorney calling a client

Don't Let Your Claim Expire

There are different types of mesothelioma claims, including personal injury and wrongful death claims. Each type of claim is subject to statutes of limitations that vary by state.

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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?

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.

You typically will not need to travel. Mesothelioma attorneys can often handle the entire case process and travel to you when necessary.

How Much Do Mesothelioma Lawyers Charge?

Most mesothelioma lawyers typically 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.

How Do I Choose an Attorney for an Asbestos Lawsuit?

Make sure to choose a mesothelioma lawyer who specializes in asbestos litigation. Your attorney should have a long record of success securing compensation for mesothelioma plaintiffs. They should offer to handle your case on a contingency-fee basis, which means you only have to pay if they win your case.

Can a Family Member File a Mesothelioma Lawsuit?

Yes, when a loved one passes away from mesothelioma a family member can file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the estate. There are time limits for filing that vary by state, ranging from one year to six years, with the average being two years.

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 need through a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.

Are You Eligible to File a Lawsuit?

You are typically eligible to file a mesothelioma lawsuit if you can provide documentation of the cancer diagnosis and the asbestos exposure history that caused it. You must file your claim before the statute of limitations expires, 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 includes family member, needs to determine whether to proceed and act as the decision maker during the legal process.

The documentation in your claim must include medical and employment records as well as detailed descriptions and testimony about the asbestos exposure. You should also detail all expenses related to the cancer.

If a liable company filed for bankruptcy, your lawyer may help you file a trust-fund claim instead of a lawsuit. Your options may also include filing for workers’ compensation or 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.

Notable Asbestos Lawsuit Verdicts

Hundreds of thousands of people have filed asbestos lawsuits to seek compensation from companies that negligently exposed them to asbestos. Compensation from lawsuits helps reduce financial hardships during an illness and provide a more stable future for loved ones.

  • $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

While everyone’s case is different, there are certain steps that apply to nearly everyone who files an asbestos-related lawsuit. Your attorney will handle each of these steps and explain the process along the way.

For the most part, mesothelioma litigation follows these steps:

1. Preparation

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.

2. Filing

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.

3. Responses

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.

Don’t worry — this is normal. Your attorney will reply to each defendant’s responses.

4. Discovery

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 process may take a few hours or several days, but it often may be performed 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.

5. Settlement

Before a trial starts, defendants may offer to resolve the case by offering you money. If you decline a settlement offer, it’s possible the defendant will make another offer. Your attorney will negotiate on your behalf.

Mesothelioma settlements depend on multiple factors and can influence your decision whether to go to trial.

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 other bills.

6. Trial

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.

7. Appeal

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.

Couple reviewing financial assistance options

Did You Know?

Most mesothelioma cases settle before going to trial, and the average mesothelioma settlement payout ranges between $1 million and $1.4 million.

Qualify for a Settlement

What to Expect from Defendant Responses

Once you file your mesothelioma claim, be prepared for defendants to deny fault for your medical condition. They may allege that:

  • Smoking, drinking or drug use caused your health problems.
  • Your family history shows significant health problems among relatives.
  • You worked at other places where asbestos was a bigger problem.
  • You have not been properly diagnosed by a medical professional.
  • The petition was not filed correctly, even if it was filed on time.
  • Exposure to asbestos and other toxic substances happened at home or elsewhere, not just at work.
  • Your medical condition is not related to asbestos exposure.
  • (If a wrongful death claim) You do not have the authority to file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the deceased.

Don’t take these allegations to heart. Just let your attorney handle them.

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.

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

Drs. Selikoff, Churg, and Hammond

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.”

Restatement of the Law Second, Torts

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.

asbestos long fibers

The defendants were 11 manufacturers of asbestos insulation products, including Johns Manville, Fibreboard Paper Products and Owen Corning Fiberglass. 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.

Fibreboard Corporation

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. Borel v. Fibreboard Paper Products Corporation was decided for the plaintiff in 1973 in the amount of $79,436.

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.

Asbestos Protest

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.

Status of Mesothelioma Lawsuits Today

Thousands of mesothelioma lawsuits are still filed every year.

A total of 4,450 asbestos lawsuits were filed in 2017, according to a KCIC Industry Report.

The best advice when considering filing a mesothelioma lawsuit is to seek the legal assistance of an experienced mesothelioma lawyer.

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Lawyer and On-Site Legal Advisor

Joe Lahav is a lawyer and legal advisor at The Mesothelioma Center. He graduated with honors from the University of Florida College of Law in 2000, and he's licensed to practice in Washington, D.C., and Florida. Joe lost his mother to cancer, and he understands the emotional toll mesothelioma can have on families.

Walter Pacheco, Managing Editor at
Edited by

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Last Modified December 6, 2019

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