Mesothelioma Class Action
Mesothelioma class action lawsuits date back to the late 1960s when information about asbestos-related diseases first became public. Class action lawsuits are traditionally a way for similarly injured people to join together to seek financial restitution from at-fault companies.
To become a class action, a judge must determine if the plaintiffs have similar enough situations that would make separate lawsuits impractical. Companies that produced or distributed asbestos-containing materials and have failed to warn employees about the dangers have been the focus of large-scale lawsuits.
Mesothelioma patients rarely file class actions because the circumstances behind each case are so different. State and federal courts have found that most asbestos-exposure patients are not injured in the same manner under the same circumstances. Instead, most patients hire individual attorneys for legal action. Many patients also turn to mesothelioma trust funds for quick access to financial compensation
What is a Class Action Lawsuit?
Class action lawsuits allow one person or a small group of people who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma to sue on behalf of a larger group. The reality is class actions are uncommon for mesothelioma cases because the injured members of the class are too different.
Asbestos cancer cases can differ in the following ways:
- Unique Circumstances – All mesothelioma patients have diverse circumstances behind their asbestos exposure and diagnosis, including different manufacturers and different states, making it unwise to combine them into one lawsuit.
- Compensation Amounts – Claimants who file separate lawsuits based on their unique circumstances typically yield a better financial outcome than those who do not.
- Trial Length – The class-action process is time consuming and can take years to complete, delaying financial compensation for an undetermined amount of time.
History of Asbestos Litigation
Asbestos-related class action lawsuits emerged in the 1960s, soon after the public was made aware companies were purposely withholding information about asbestos dangers. Within two decades, the number of cases exploded to some 800,000. With an overwhelming number of cases and varied circumstances for each, judges looked to different ways for resolutions.
In 1997, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a $1.3 billion asbestos class-action settlement because the complex and varied circumstances behind each case did not warrant a single class-action suit. While state courts appear more willing to certify such class actions, most asbestos-related lawsuits are remedied through other civil actions, including individual lawsuits, multi-district litigation, and trust funds.
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Bankruptcies and Trusts
In the early years of asbestos litigation, exposed workers filed class action lawsuits to get compensation for injuries. Even though many of these companies sought bankruptcy protection, a judge ruled they could not skirt their responsibility to the injured workers. U.S. law now requires companies that have declared bankruptcy to protect themselves from asbestos litigation create trust funds to compensate workers for current and future asbestos-related injuries. Experienced lawyers can help claimants get quick access to the available funds.
Compensation can be in the millions, but it’s not easy to predict what each individual case is worth. For all types of compensation, the value of each case depends on several factors, including level of injury, medical diagnosis and company negligence. Anyone injured by asbestos can file a claim for a potential settlement.
- Labaton, Stephen. New York Times. “Overturning of $1.3 Billion Settlement With Victims of Asbestos Exposure Is Upheld.” Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/1997/06/26/us/overturning-1.3-billion-settlement-with-victims-asbestos-exposure-upheld.html
- Dixon, Lloyd et al. Asbestos Bankruptcy Trusts and Tort Compensation. Retrieved from http://www.rand.org/pubs/monographs/MG1104.html
- Environmental Working Group. “When Bankruptcy Means ‘Business as Usual.’ Retrieved from http://www.ewg.org/asbestos/facts/fact2.php