What Is a Mesothelioma Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

A mesothelioma wrongful death lawsuit is a legal action claiming negligent companies are liable for asbestos exposure that led to someone’s death. When a loved one dies of mesothelioma, surviving family members may be eligible to file a mesothelioma lawsuit after death.  

Courts have found companies liable for the injuries and deaths caused by their asbestos products. Patients still living with mesothelioma may file personal injury lawsuits to access mesothelioma compensation.

Filing a mesothelioma wrongful death lawsuit can provide a family with compensation. This financial help pays medical bills, funeral costs and other expenses. It can help families focus on the moments that matter most.

After the loss of a loved one, it’s understandable that filing this type of claim is stressful for families. An experienced mesothelioma law firm can help reduce this stress. They offer free case reviews and consultations, so you can learn about the process and what it may require from you and your family.

Key Facts About Mesothelioma Wrongful Death Lawsuits
  • Mesothelioma or asbestos wrongful death lawsuits are a type of product liability litigation.
  • Settlement amounts for wrongful death claims are private, but estimates put the average above $1 million.
  • Some wrongful death jury verdicts result in awards comparable to personal injury verdicts, which average between $5 million and $11.4 million.

Wrongful Death Settlements and Verdicts for Mesothelioma

A mesothelioma trial verdict may result in a higher payout than a settlement. However, compensation is not guaranteed and often takes longer than a settlement.

Most mesothelioma lawsuits settle out of court. These settlements provide guaranteed compensation. The average mesothelioma settlement is between $1 million and $2 million.

Notable Settlements and Verdicts
  • $81.5M in 2021: The Washington Supreme Court confirmed damages awarded to the estate of Jerry Coogan, who died of mesothelioma from exposure to asbestos in brakes and other mechanical parts.
  • $32.7M in 2018: A jury ordered Covil Corp. to pay damages to the estate of Franklin Finch, who died of mesothelioma following exposure to asbestos at a Firestone tire factory in Wilson, North Carolina.
  • $32M in 2021: A South Carolina jury awarded compensatory and punitive damages to the estate of Kathy Weist, who died of mesothelioma after secondary exposure to asbestos.
  • $30M in 2023: An Illinois jury awarded $30 million to the estate of Thomas Jackson, who died of mesothelioma following secondary asbestos exposure through his father’s employment with Bridgestone Firestone Tires America.
  • $12.1M in 2021: The estate of Robert Mitchell received damages in a wrongful death lawsuit against John Crane Inc. Mitchell died of mesothelioma after exposure to asbestos rope packing.
  • $8.8M in 2023: A jury awarded damages to the estate of John Metzger, who died of mesothelioma after exposure to asbestos cement pipe made by Johns Manville.

Following a $20 million asbestos-talc verdict, defendants DAP and Vanderbilt Minerals settled outside of court with Kathleen Peckham, who claimed her husband died of mesothelioma following exposure to asbestos in DAP 33 window glaze. While the settlement is private, the companies settled to avoid punitive damages and the appeals process.

A qualified mesothelioma attorney has the expertise to advise families whether to settle or wait for trial. Compensation may also be available through wrongful death claims filed with asbestos trust funds.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit for Mesothelioma?

The estate representative, also known as a personal representative, can file a mesothelioma wrongful death lawsuit.  When a person dies of an asbestos-related illness, legal decisions fall into the hands of the estate representative. This person may or may not be a family member.

The patient’s last will and testament identifies the estate representative. The eligible representative is called an executor when named in a will or an administrator when appointed without a will.

Examples of Estate Representatives
  • Spouses or life partners
  • Children (including adopted children or stepchildren)
  • Parents
  • Grandparents
  • Close friends
  • Someone financially dependent on the loved one who died (varies by state)
  • Court-appointed fiduciaries

When there is no will naming an estate representative, the court will appoint one. The court may choose a family member or someone outside the family, such as a fiduciary or a friend. A fiduciary is a person or organization tasked with acting in the best interests of the estate. 

When a family member is willing to serve as an estate representative, the courts usually don’t appoint nonfamily-member fiduciaries. Families that need help understanding the representation of their loved one’s estate can contact a mesothelioma law firm.

Why File a Wrongful Death Claim for Mesothelioma?

Many families choose to file a mesothelioma claim to seek compensation after a loved one dies from this disease. This covers medical costs, lost wages and other damages. It holds companies responsible for exposing their loved ones to asbestos.

Types of Wrongful Death Damages
  • Funeral expenses
  • Grief counseling
  • Loss of consortium
  • Lost wages
  • Medical costs
  • Pain and suffering

Filing a mesothelioma wrongful death lawsuit is a time-sensitive process. Each state has its own statute of limitations for wrongful death claims. A mesothelioma attorney in your area can explain the statute of limitations and help you file a wrongful death claim before the time limit expires.

Challenges of Filing a Mesothelioma Wrongful Death Claim

Wrongful death claims face challenges because the person with mesothelioma is no longer alive to assist in the claim. Having the patient available to respond throughout the legal process helps build a strong case. 

If your family member has died from mesothelioma, there are still options to bring the case. The first and most imperative one is to talk to a mesothelioma attorney who can guide you through the process of filing a case on your loved one’s behalf.

In a wrongful death case, the patient can no longer testify to the full scope of how they were exposed to asbestos. They cannot answer questions to help track down evidence in support of the case. However, a good mesothelioma attorney will investigate, collect evidence, secure testimony from former co-workers and find expert witnesses to support the claim.

Statutes of Limitations

Families must submit a claim before the statute of limitations expires. In wrongful death lawsuits, the clock begins ticking after mesothelioma is confirmed as the cause of death.

Surviving family members may not know about statutes of limitations to file an asbestos claim after the death of a loved one. They may assume it’s too late to file a claim, but an experienced attorney can review the case to see which state’s statutes of limitations apply.

About 30%

Percentage of people who contact The Mesothelioma Center for legal assistance with an expired statute of limitation. An attorney can review the eligibility of your claim.

Proving Work and Asbestos Exposure History

When a loved one is no longer alive to tell their story, an experienced mesothelioma attorney can guide you through the challenges associated with obtaining the testimony and gathering the evidence you will need to prove your case. These challenges include locating co-workers, witnesses and other relevant records.

Accessing medical records is also particularly difficult once a loved one dies, but an experienced mesothelioma attorney can guide you through that process.

Witness Testimony

Often, the most important witness in a mesothelioma lawsuit is the diagnosed individual. They can give details about their work history and medical history that even their closest family members may not know.

It is therefore more difficult to prove the case when the diagnosed person is unavailable to testify. However, co-workers familiar with the decedent’s asbestos exposure history can still provide testimony. Such co-workers are often challenging to locate, but an experienced mesothelioma attorney can help you find them and obtain their testimony.

Can Personal Injury Claims Become Wrongful Death Claims?

When a patient dies before their personal injury claim reaches a resolution, it can be amended to include a wrongful death claim. A loved one usually becomes the estate representative and continues the claim.

For example, Gail Metzger amended her husband’s personal injury claim to include wrongful death when he died of mesothelioma. John Metzger was exposed to asbestos cement pipe while working as a land surveyor. In 2023, a jury ordered Johns Manville and George Dakovich & Son Inc. to pay more than $8.8 million to Metzger’s estate.

Robert Weist amended his wife’s personal injury lawsuit to include a wrongful death claim after his spouse, Kathy Weist, died of mesothelioma. Prior to her death, Kathy Weist had sued Kraft Heinz and others alleging their use of asbestos caused her mesothelioma. In 2021, a South Carolina jury awarded $32 million to the Weist family.

If a loved one dies before a claim reaches a resolution, a qualified mesothelioma attorney can help. They can answer any questions you may have and amend the claim for wrongful death before the statute of limitations expires.

Common Questions About Mesothelioma Wrongful Death Claims

What are my options if I think my loved one died from mesothelioma?

If your family member has died from mesothelioma, there are still options to bring the case. The first and most imperative step is to talk to a mesothelioma attorney who can guide you through the process of filing a case on your loved one’s behalf. The mesothelioma attorney can begin the process of heading toward resolution through trial or settlement.

Answered By: Jim Kramer, Mesothelioma Attorney, Simmons Hanly Conroy Law Firm

Why is compensation available for mesothelioma patients and loved ones?

Compensation is available because mesothelioma is a preventable disease. Asbestos product manufacturers are liable for diseases their products cause.

What is the average settlement for a mesothelioma death?

In a lot of mesothelioma claims, the settlements and verdicts are sizable. We’re talking multimillion-dollar verdicts and settlements. So 55% or 70% of a multimillion-dollar collection is going to be life-changing money for most people.

Answered By: Joe Lahav, Esq. – Lawyer and Legal Advisor

What’s the difference between a wrongful death lawsuit and an asbestos trust fund claim?

The courts process wrongful death lawsuits, while trust fund claims operate outside of the court system. Estate representatives can file trust fund claims after death in addition to wrongful death lawsuits.

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