Mesothelioma Lawsuit and Settlement History
Created by FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors | Last reviewed December 04, 2018
Mesothelioma is a relatively rare cancer associated with contact with asbestos. The relative rareness of the condition and the very long latency period between contact with asbestos and the development of symptoms, often 20-50 years, have meant that mesothelioma lawsuits have been less common than other kinds of asbestos illness related lawsuits.
Asbestos Lawsuits Generally
The first asbestos lawsuits were filed in the 1930s. Mesothelioma's relative rarity and longer latency period meant that early lawsuits were generally focused on the other cancers and diseases associated with asbestos contact. These early lawsuits remain important to the history of mesothelioma lawsuits, however, since they publicized the risk associated with asbestos and resulted in the revelation that the companies responsible for manufacturing asbestos were largely aware of the terrible health consequences and had intentionally concealed them from their workers.
However, serious change did not occur until the Environmental Protection Agency issued a 1970 report finding that mesothelioma and lung cancer were directly caused by asbestos exposure. As a result states began to issue regulations limiting asbestos use. The federal government also issued a series of bans on asbestos products. These contributed to the shocking number of lawsuits that arose in the 80s and 90s. Companies were subjected to thousands of lawsuits. Many resorted to a combination of bankruptcy and corporate reorganization, resulting in the dissolution of many of the responsible companies by the early 1990s.
The United States Supreme Court also dealt with several cases relating to class action settlements that the remaining companies offered in an attempt to limit their future exposure and liability. These settlements were rejected since they would have excluded future claimants.
A more recent development in asbestos and mesothelioma litigation is the prosecution of plaintiff's attorneys and the companies they represent under the RICO act. RICO is a law that was created to catch those involved in organized crime, but concerted efforts by attorneys and companies for their schemes involving the improper disposal of asbestos, money laundering, concealing evidence, and other organized acts intended to avoid liability has resulted in several RICO convictions.
A Variety of Litigants
There have been a wide variety of litigants involved in mesothelioma lawsuits.
- Early asbestos and mesothelioma lawsuits typically involved litigants who worked in asbestos mines and factories suing the businesses that mined, manufactured, and processed asbestos.
- A secondary group of litigants involved workers exposed to asbestos at worksites such as railroads, power plants, and shipyards, this time suing distributors and the owners of the premises where the exposure took place.
- A third group of litigants consisted of workers and private individuals exposed to asbestos on account of its use in construction suing property owners and employers.
Other parties asserted as having liability for asbestos-related mesothelioma have included retailers of asbestos-containing products, manufacturers of protective equipment, owners of premises containing asbestos, banks that financed projects involving asbestos use, and others.
Record Awards and Settlements
Despite the aspects of mesothelioma lawsuits that complicate recovery such as the long period of latency and the dissolution of guilty parties, mesothelioma awards and settlements in the millions have been common. In the aggregate, asbestos-related illnesses have been responsible for the most expensive and longest running mass tort litigation in U.S. history, with total costs numbering in the billions.
Get An Attorney's Help with Your Mesothelioma Claim
Although mesothelioma lawsuits are now much more common than they once were, they remain more complicated and technical than many comparable civil suits. Responsible parties may, at this stage, be desperate to avoid liability and are experienced at raising defenses against claims. Contact an experienced attorney in your area for help with your mesothelioma claim and learn how they can help you get possibly compensated for your asbestos-related illness.
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