Mesothelioma Lawsuits, Claims, and Liability
Mesothelioma is a type of terminal cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. It affects the delicate lining covering most of the body's internal organs. This rare form of cancer typically presents itself in the lining of the abdomen, lungs, or heart.
In this article, we will briefly discuss:
- The primary cause of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses
- What to do if you learn that you have mesothelioma
You and your family members have legal rights, and a mesothelioma lawyer can help protect these rights.
History of Asbestos Use in the U.S.
Asbestos is flexible, strong, and heat-resistant. Therefore, many construction companies use it in cement, insulation, and electrical systems. Before 1970, builders used asbestos in most residential and commercial properties.
This didn't change until 1970 when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a report showing that asbestos exposure caused mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer. After that, the government passed regulations on asbestos use.
The federal government also issued a series of bans on asbestos-containing products. These contributed to the shocking number of lawsuits that arose in the 1980s and 1990s.
The Development of Asbestos Lawsuits
Early asbestos cases focused on cancer and diseases associated with asbestos. It wasn't until the latter part of the 20th century that mesothelioma lawsuits became prevalent.
The first lawsuits involving mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses appeared in the 1960s. Since then, the courts have overseen hundreds of thousands of asbestos lawsuits. The cases include claims that asbestos caused mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses, such as asbestosis.
Many defendants settle their asbestos lawsuits, whereas others go to trial. However, the courts understand the limited lifespan of mesothelioma claimants and do their best to fast-track these cases.
Liability in Occupational Asbestos Exposure Cases
For an asbestos victim to recover damages for their mesothelioma diagnosis, they must prove fault. Your asbestos attorney must demonstrate that the defendant caused your illness. Of course, this will depend on how you contracted your disease.
Many people encountered asbestos at work. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) implemented standards that protect construction and shipbuilding workers. OSHA also covers people in brake repair, custodial work, and asbestos-product manufacturing.
The EPA passed laws to protect government workers who come into contact with asbestos or asbestos fibers. The Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) protects workers who work for companies without OSHA-approved safety and health plans. Most mesothelioma patients will have to file a worker's compensation claim.
Under worker's compensation law, the insurance company will only cover your medical bills. They may also pay part of your lost wages. Most mesothelioma victims file their mesothelioma claims after they stop working. This means workers' compensation isn't available to them.
Liability in Product Liability Cases
Not everyone who contracts mesothelioma encountered asbestos at work. Some people become sick after using products with high concentrations of asbestos. For example, a particular talcum powder you used for years might cause ovarian cancer.
In such cases, you would file suit against the product's manufacturer. This is what we have seen with the Johnson & Johnson baby powder litigation. The plaintiffs in this class action lawsuit allege that the talc in the baby powder contains asbestos. The class action attorneys argue that their clients developed cancer as a result of using the powder.
More than 37,000 people filed lawsuits against the manufacturer. To date, Johnson & Johnson has settled some of the cases. Others are still pending.
In 2019, the FDA confirmed that the powder contained small amounts of asbestos. The manufacturer removed it from the shelves in the U.S. and Canada in January 2023.
Filing a Personal Injury Claim
The claims process is different in every state. Once your attorney determines your claim has merit, they'll file a complaint with the civil court. In your complaint, you must name all potential defendants.
In most types of mesothelioma claims, you may name any of the following defendants:
- Manufacturer of asbestos-containing product
- Employer who was reckless or negligent in disclosing the presence of asbestos
- Construction companies who used asbestos in your home despite laws to the contrary
- A company that allows asbestos to seep into the soil or water
- The owner of a commercial or public building who failed to remove asbestos from the premises in compliance with the law
For each defendant you name in your claim, your personal injury attorney must prove fault. They will also have to prove your damages.
What Damages Can You Demand in Your Mesothelioma Lawsuit?
Many effects of toxic asbestos exposure are permanent and irreversible, particularly mesothelioma and many other forms of cancer. Although the law seeks to place an injured person in the position they were in before an injury, this usually is not possible. Instead, the judge will award economic compensation thought to be equivalent to the victim's damage.
The damages your attorney will demand in your complaint depend on several factors. For example, younger plaintiffs are typically able to demand more for lost wages and lost future income. People without health insurance may be able to claim more money for medical expenses and future medical bills.
The same is true for wrongful death lawsuits filed on behalf of a loved one who died from mesothelioma. Either the victim's family or the personal representative of the estate can demand damages for the following:
- Funeral/burial expenses
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of consortium
The value of such damages varies from case to case. A plaintiff who can prove that they suffered an asbestos-related injury may be able to recover economic and noneconomic damages. In most personal injury lawsuits, your attorney can demand some or all of the following:
- Medical bills and future medical expenses
- Lost wages and lost future income
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Burial and funeral expenses
- Loss of value to the victim's family
- Loss of consortium
- Punitive damages
It's important to remember that the courts rarely award punitive damages in these cases. Punitive damages are only available if your lawyer can prove that the defendant(s) acted recklessly, wantonly, or without regard for human safety.
Factors Impacting the Value of Your Claim
As briefly stated above, every case is different. One mesothelioma lawsuit could be worth half or twice as much as another.
Several factors will directly impact the payout you receive. Some of these factors include the following:
- Your prognosis
- Your age
- Your general health before developing mesothelioma
- Your income
- Your family situation
Regardless of your total damages, your attorney will likely settle your lawsuit. Very few of these cases go to trial. Some plaintiffs receive their settlement monies directly from the defendant(s), while others come from asbestos bankruptcy trust funds set up years ago.
Statute of Limitations for Mesothelioma Claims
Plaintiffs have a limited time after their asbestos-related illness is detected to file suit. Sadly, because the prognosis for mesothelioma is so poor, most plaintiffs pass away before resolving their case.
In the event the would-be plaintiff dies before filing their mesothelioma claim, surviving family members may file a wrongful death lawsuit. They must do this before the statute of limitations for wrongful death cases passes in their home state.
If you have a claim, your asbestos lawyer will tell you whether you still have time to file a lawsuit. The filing deadlines vary from state to state. For example, some statutes of limitations include:
- Florida: 4 years from diagnosis
- Illinois: 2 years from diagnosis
- New York: 3 years from diagnosis
- Texas: 2 years from diagnosis
If you don't file your lawsuit on time, the courts will dismiss your claim. It will take the mesothelioma law firm you retain time to prepare your case. Don't wait until the last minute to hire them. Contact an attorney as soon as you learn that you or your loved one have been diagnosed with the illness.
Retain a Personal Injury Attorney To Help with Your Mesothelioma Claim
Although mesothelioma lawsuits are common today, asbestos cases remain more complicated and technical than most civil lawsuits. Asbestos companies are desperate to avoid liability. The idea of a mesothelioma lawyer filing a class action lawsuit or asbestos claim against them is terrifying.
If you or your loved one developed mesothelioma and you believe asbestos is the culprit, you may have a legal claim for damages. Contact an experienced attorney in your area for help with your mesothelioma claim. They will explain your legal options and help seek the financial compensation you deserve for your asbestos-related illness.
You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.
Contact a qualified product liability attorney to make sure your rights are protected.