Occupational asbestos exposure poses considerable health risks in West Virginia.
Exposure to asbestos dust at the state’s many coal mines and processing facilities has led to serious health conditions for workers. In the past, asbestos use was also rife in West Virginia’s power plants, oil refineries, railroads, steel mills and other industries.
West Virginia’s asbestos-related death rate was nine deaths per 100,000 people between 1999 and 2013. That is almost twice the nationwide average, as reported by the Environmental Working Group Action Fund.
In several West Virginia counties, the asbestos-related death rate is more three times the national average. This includes Kanawha County, the state’s center of industry.
These sobering statistics — combined with West Virginia’s reputation for plaintiff-friendly courts — has made the state a top jurisdiction for mesothelioma lawsuits.
A KCIC industry report included Kanawha County among the top ten counties in the nation for asbestos litigation in 2017. Though there is a national downward trend in asbestos claim filings, Kanawha County actually showed an increase in claims from 2016 to 2017.
West Virginia Asbestos Laws and Regulations
West Virginia’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) enforces the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants. The state Bureau for Public Health sets licensing requirements for professionals who inspect and remove asbestos-containing materials.
Buildings must be inspected for asbestos before renovation or demolition operations begin. In cases where regulated asbestos-containing materials will be disturbed, the DEP Division of Air Quality must be notified in advance.
The state government requires special training for asbestos-abatement professionals so they understand how to safely remove and dispose of asbestos-containing materials.
Filing a Lawsuit in West Virginia
During the past decade, the West Virginia Legislature and state courts established specific rules and procedures to manage the large number of asbestos claims. Experienced mesothelioma attorneys are familiar with those rules and the West Virginia case process.
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Mass Litigation Panel
West Virginia’s Supreme Court of Appeals established a special panel to handle mass litigation cases such as asbestos personal injury lawsuits. Asbestos cases filed in West Virginia are currently referred to the Circuit Court of Kanawha County.
Procedures for filing asbestos cases are established in the Mass Litigation Panel (MLP) Asbestos Case Management Order.
The MLP requires a “Plaintiff Fact Sheet” from each plaintiff in a pending asbestos personal injury case. Plaintiffs must report work history, smoking history, medical providers and any benefits such as workers’ compensation and disability.
Case consolidation is a process courts use to group similar claims for processing. Courts use consolidation as a tool to reduce filings, streamline case scheduling and expedite trials.
Under the current Asbestos Case Management Order, plaintiffs’ attorneys designate “trial groups” of twenty cases. The court schedules trials for three of these groups each year.
Asbestos cases are also divided into categories based on the severity of the plaintiffs’ illnesses. The categories are used to group cases for scheduling.
- Category I cases include living plaintiffs who have been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma or asbestos-related lung cancer. Category I plaintiffs receive first priority in trial groups. Any Category I plaintiff who dies before being deposed is moved to Category II.
- Category II cases include deceased plaintiffs who were diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma or asbestos-related lung cancer.
- Category III cases include plaintiffs who have been diagnosed with nonmalignant asbestos-related diseases such as asbestosis.
Punitive damages are awarded to punish losing defendants and deter them from causing more injuries. Since 2015, punitive damage awards in West Virginia have been limited to four times compensatory damages or $500,000, whichever is greater.
The Asbestos Case Management Order requires plaintiffs disclose any claims that may exist against bankruptcy trusts no later than 120 days before trial.
Information about trust claims is shared with defendants. Courts may require claimants to disclose the amounts they receive or expect to receive from bankruptcy trusts. Defendants are entitled to deduct these amounts from verdicts as “set-offs.”
West Virginia Lawsuit Filing Deadlines
West Virginia’s statutes of limitations are in line with most other state laws. Mesothelioma patients have two years from their time of diagnosis to file a personal-injury lawsuit. The time limit for filing a wrongful-death lawsuit is also two years.
West Virginia Job Sites with Documented Asbestos Exposure
- Beckley Mining Academy
- West Virginia Electric Supply
- Barium Reduction
- Cecil Walker Machinery
- Dupont Chemical
- Fike Chemical
- FMC Ordnance
- General Electric
- Gordon Gasket and Packing Company
- Ingersoll Rand
- Norfolk Southern Railroad
- P&H MinePro Services Appalachia
- Union Carbide mines
- Vimasco Corporation
- Allegheny Energy Supply
- Brockway Glass
- Centurial Products
- Fourco Glass
- Dominion Virginia Power
- Consolidation Coal Company
- FMC Chemical
- Monongahela Power Company
- American Car Foundry
- Ensign Electric
- International Nickel Company
- Union Carbide mines
- Appalachian Power Company
- Fort Martin Power Plant
- Hubbell Incorporated
- Union Carbide mines
- Allied Chemical
- Analine Chemical
- Ben Franklin Coal Company
- Ergon West Virginia
- Mobay Chemical
- PPG Industries
- Borg Warner
- West Virginia Ordnance
- Kaiser Aluminum
- Kellwood Industries
- Demuth Glass
- Weirton Steel
- Blaw Knox Rolls
- Wheeling Pittsburgh Steel
West Virginia Mesothelioma Lawsuits
Asbestos-related diseases are often caused by the negligence of employers who put profits before their workers’ safety. The legal process in West Virginia provides various ways for people with mesothelioma to receive compensation for their medical bills and hardship.
Taking a company to trial is the ultimate way to hold them accountable for causing workplace asbestos exposure. Juries in West Virginia have also held companies liable for secondhand asbestos exposure. For example, DuPont was ordered to pay $6.4 million in damages to the family of Leonard Cox in 2002.
Cox died two years prior from mesothelioma. Experts traced the cancer back to asbestos dust brought home on his father’s work clothes when Cox was a child. His father worked with asbestos insulation at DuPont’s Belle chemical plant.
Many defendants in asbestos lawsuits choose to settle out of court rather than risk a jury verdict.
Generally, out-of-court settlement amounts are less than verdict awards, and they are kept confidential to save the defendant from bad press. But experienced lawyers are known to secure mesothelioma settlements worth more than $1 million for their clients.
Asbestos trust funds are set up by liable companies as a way to avoid going bankrupt because of lawsuits. An attorney familiar with asbestos cases can determine which asbestos trusts you may be able to file a claim with.
9 Cited Article Sources
KCIC. (2018). ASBESTOS LITIGATION: 2017 YEAR IN REVIEW.
Retrieved from: https://images.law.com/contrib/content/uploads/documents/398/12850/KCIC-2017-AsbestosReport-Final.pdf
13th Judicial Circuit West Virginia. (2012, Jan. 6). Asbestos Case Management Order.
Retrieved from: http://www.courtswv.gov/lower-courts/mlp/mlp-orders/asbestos-2012-cmo.pdf
Dixon, L. and McGovern, G. (2011). Asbestos Bankruptcy Trusts and Tort Compensation.
Retrieved from: https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/monographs/2011/RAND_MG1104.sum.pdf
Schwartz, V., Joyce, S. and Silverman, C. (2009, Spring). West Virginia as a Judicial Hellhole: Why Businesses Fear Litigating in State Courts, 111 W.Va. L. Rev. 757.
Girion, L. (2002, October 25). Union Carbide Liable for Asbestos Illnesses.
Retrieved from: http://articles.latimes.com/2002/oct/25/business/fi-asbestos25
Associated Press. (2002, Mar 7). COMPANY NEWS; DUPONT ORDERED TO PAY SURVIVORS OF ASBESTOS VICTIMS.
Retrieved from: https://www.nytimes.com/2002/03/07/business/company-news-dupont-ordered-to-pay-survivors-of-asbestos-victims.html
EWG Action Fund. (n.d.). Asbestos-Related Death Rates in West Virginia.
Retrieved from: http://www.asbestosnation.org/facts/asbestos-deaths/wv/
Justicia. (n.d.). WV Code § 55-7G-9 (2015).
Retrieved from: https://law.justia.com/codes/west-virginia/2015/chapter-55/article-7g/section-55-7g-9
- West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection. (n.d.). Asbestos Removal and Demolition. Retrieved from: https://dep.wv.gov/daq/CandE/Pages/AsbestosRemovalandDemolition.aspx
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Last Modified November 5, 2019