Understanding Mesothelioma Settlements vs. Verdicts
Mesothelioma settlements and verdicts are two different ways of achieving compensation through an asbestos claim. While there are many differences between settlements and verdicts, both offer a variety of benefits to patients and families coping with mesothelioma.
- Settlement: A settlement is achieved when your attorney and the defendant negotiate a fair compensation amount to resolve the claim.
- Verdict: A verdict is compensation issued by a jury or court at the close of a mesothelioma trial.
- Payout: The payout is the amount of compensation you receive once the attorney’s fees and costs have been paid.
There is a statute of limitations on legal claims for asbestos exposure. Each state has its own time frame for filing a claim following the initial diagnosis. Patients should speak to a mesothelioma attorney if they are considering settlement compensation.
Mesothelioma Award Amounts
- Average mesothelioma settlement payout: $1 million to $1.5 million
- Average trial verdict amount for mesothelioma: $5 million to $11.4 million
- Largest mesothelioma verdict: $250 million (in 2003)
Source: 2019 Mealey’s Litigation Report, 2016 Mealey’s Litigation Commentary, New York Times
Benefits of a Mesothelioma Settlement
While a trial verdict may result in a larger award, there is no guarantee a jury will side with you. Qualified mesothelioma attorneys know there are no sure bets in a trial. The amount you can negotiate in a settlement may be smaller than what you could win in a trial verdict, but the compensation will be guaranteed.
The decision to settle or go after a verdict is best made with the advice of an experienced mesothelioma attorney. These lawyers understand the nature of malignant mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.
The more evidence you gather to support your case, the easier it will be to agree on a reasonable settlement amount with a defendant company or companies.
Reasons a Defendant May Agree to Settle
- Discovery of information that would likely lead to a favorable verdict for the plaintiff
- A compelling deposition that favors the plaintiff
- Lack of time to complete necessary research before a trial
- Sudden unavailability of a key witness or expert needed to win the case
- Mounting legal fees from a drawn-out lawsuit
Average Mesothelioma Settlement Amount
The amount of compensation won through asbestos personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits varies from case to case. Many patients or their estates have received settlements and jury awards worth millions of dollars. Mesothelioma trust payouts remain significantly less than what claimants may be eligible to receive in court.
The time frame for a mesothelioma settlement varies, with some patients receiving a check in a few months to some waiting more than a year.
Notable Settlement Payouts
Exact settlement figures are usually kept private, and claimants often are bound by confidentiality agreements. However, some mesothelioma lawsuit settlement amounts tend to become public from time to time.
In 2005, U.S. Steel was ordered to pay $250 million to the wife of a former steel worker who died of mesothelioma. U.S. Steel reached a post-verdict settlement for an undisclosed amount believed to be substantially less than the trial award.
In 2011, a circuit court judge approved a $10 million settlement to Nancy Lopez. The Jackson County courthouse employee was exposed to asbestos during a renovation project done by U.S. Engineering Company. A few years after Lopez died of mesothelioma, two of her former co-workers filed a lawsuit against Jackson County and the engineering company, resulting in an $80 million settlement.
The mass asbestos exposure from the vermiculite mines in Libby resulted in two major payouts. In 2011, a district court judge approved a $43 million settlement covering more than 1,300 miners and their estates. A second class-action lawsuit awarded a $25 million settlement to more than 1,000 people in January 2017. Future settlements are likely as mesothelioma victims continue to file legal actions.
In 2006, Alfred D’Ulisse, a retired police officer and former brake specialist, reached a $25 million settlement with Daimler-Chrysler. The company had exposed him and many others to asbestos in automobile brakes.
Notable Trial Verdict Payouts
When plaintiffs and defendants don’t agree to a settlement, the case usually goes to trial. If jurors agree the defendants are liable, they will decide how much money the defendants should pay in damages.
In November 2016, a Los Angeles Superior Court jury awarded Philip Depoian a record-setting $18 million verdict in a mesothelioma-talcum powder lawsuit. Depoian was exposed to asbestos-tainted talcum powder products used at the barber shop where his father worked.
A jury awarded former naval shipyard worker George Parker $6.5 million in March 2016. The jury determined John Crane Inc. was responsible for exposing Parker to asbestos, which led to his mesothelioma diagnosis. Parker worked with gasket materials containing asbestos at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard.
In April 2018, damages awarded to Stephen Lanzo III and his wife totaled $117 million. A jury found Johnson & Johnson and Imerys Talc America liable for selling Lanzo asbestos-contaminated talcum powder products from 1979 to 2003, which led to Lanzo’s mesothelioma diagnosis.
In one of the largest verdicts of its kind in U.S. history, a jury awarded $190 million to five Weitz & Luxenberg clients in July 2013. The jury found boiler companies Burnham and Cleaver-Brooks negligent and reckless, which caused the plaintiffs to develop mesothelioma. W&L made history again in 2017, when a jury awarded Marlena and Ed Robaey $75 million in the largest single asbestos verdict in New York.
Factors Affecting Mesothelioma Settlement Amounts
When you file a mesothelioma claim, many factors affect the potential settlement amount a defendant may agree to.
Medical Expenses and Lost Wages
Most mesothelioma patients dealing with the hardships of cancer also experience financial difficulties as medical bills continue arriving. Because patients and their family members have to focus on mesothelioma treatment and caregiving, they may be unable to work, causing a loss of income at the same time.
Compensatory and Punitive Damages
When a jury issues a verdict in favor of the plaintiff, jurors consider compensatory damages — the actual economic losses of the plaintiff. Jurors also consider punitive damages, which serve to punish a defendant for particularly bad behavior. The financial punishment is meant to deter the defendant and other companies from engaging in dangerous behavior again.
In cases where the manufacturer knowingly allowed asbestos products to harm people, the potential financial liability may be enormous. Some historic cases have warranted awards in the tens of millions of dollars. If a defendant has settled or lost cases in the past, they may want to settle a claim quickly without going through the trial process again.
Number of Companies in Lawsuit
Plaintiffs often file claims against multiple companies that manufactured asbestos-containing products. In lawsuits where multiple defendants are named, it’s common for some to settle early to avoid legal expenses, negative publicity or a prolonged proceeding.
Different states require varying amounts of evidence for proving liability, negligence and wrongdoing on the part of a defendant. Some states also cap the amount of damages that a jury can award in a trial.
Asbestos Settlement Process & Common Scenarios
The settlement process starts with a mesothelioma attorney preparing to present a plaintiff’s case to a judge and jury. Asbestos settlement negotiations with defendants can take place before, during or even after a trial.
- Filing Claims and Receiving Responses: After you work with your lawyer to identify the potentially liable companies and file your claims, the defendants typically have 30 days to respond. Some defendants may offer a small settlement immediately, but most deny the claim.
- Discovery and Preparation for Trial: The phase leading up to the trial date is called discovery, when lawyers on both sides collect evidence to build their cases. Defendants may be willing to negotiate a settlement at this stage to avoid going through with the trial.
- Trial and Appeal: If a trial starts going badly for a defendant, they may be willing to settle to avoid a damaging verdict. Even if a jury takes your side, it may be in your best interest to accept a settlement, so defendants do not file an appeal to prolong the legal process.
Your lawyer can advise you about your options and whether you should hold out for a better proposal. A lawyer can also advise you about trust fund claims and how they might affect other legal claims.
“We’re prepared to take every one of our cases to trial. A very small percentage, though, ever get to a verdict,” said Dan Kraft, an attorney at Weitz & Luxenberg, which is the law firm is responsible for two record-setting asbestos verdicts in New York.
Common Questions About Mesothelioma Settlements
- What Is the Average Settlement for a Mesothelioma Case?
The average settlement for a mesothelioma case ranges from $1 million to $1.4 million, according to a 2016 Mealey’s Litigation Report. The amount of your settlement could be more or less than this range, depending on several factors such as type of claim (personal injury or wrongful death), number of defendants in the lawsuit and details unique to your case.
- How Long Does It Take to Get an Asbestos Settlement?
The time it takes to get money from a settlement varies for each case. After a mesothelioma settlement is reached, it can take anywhere from a few months to more than a year for you to start receiving settlement checks.
You will likely receive your compensation in installments rather than in one lump sum, especially if the settlement is large. You should discuss with your mesothelioma attorney how you want your payments distributed.
- Are Mesothelioma Settlements Taxable Income?
Mesothelioma settlement payouts for medical expenses are generally not taxable. Financial compensation you receive for lost wages and emotional distress can be taxable.
An experienced mesothelioma law firm can explain how your settlement may be taxed. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 expanded the amount of settlement money that plaintiffs must pay taxes on.
- Who Is Awarded in a Wrongful Death Settlement?
Compensation awarded in a wrongful death settlement may go to the deceased person’s estate. How settlement money is distributed to surviving family members depends on the unique circumstances of each case.
- How Much Do Legal Fees Cost Patients and Families?
Most mesothelioma attorneys work on a contingency fee basis. This usually means your attorney will receive a percentage of any award or settlement, but you will owe nothing if you do not receive compensation for your injuries. You agree on the terms with your lawyer at the beginning of the case.
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