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Mesothelioma Class Action

Mesothelioma victims and their families who are struggling with medical bills, household expenses and other bills have been routinely turning to the court system to file class-action lawsuits.

Since the late 1960s, when the problems associated with asbestos exposure became public knowledge, injured victims and their families have been filing mesothelioma class actions. When it became apparent to the courts that the cases would number in the millions, procedural changes were enacted as a control measure.

What Are Class Action Lawsuits?

The courts define a class action as a group of cases that share a similar set of circumstances, or are “similarly situated.” It’s a way for a group of individuals who have been harmed or injured in a similar way from a single company to file a lawsuit. The idea is the cases can move through the court system in a more swift fashion than individual cases.

In a mesothelioma class action, lawsuits have been filed against companies that either made or used asbestos products. In most cases, companies knew about the dangers of asbestos but ignored them. At-fault companies include manufacturers, distributors, construction and mining companies and shipbuilders.

Multidistrict Litigation (MDL)

In 1991, with an onslaught of mesothelioma-related court cases, a federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) was created. While mesothelioma cases can be filed in state court, most are filed in federal court because they typically involve multiple companies from a variety of locations. An MDL is a federal court proceeding that allows attorneys from different plaintiffs to combine their work for the purposes of pretrial discovery, but each case to be heard before a judge and jury individually. That means that individual plaintiffs have the financial advantage of having multiple attorneys working on pretrial work and also the benefits that individual trials can bring.

Today, asbestos litigation is widely known as the longest running mass tort in history in the United States.

Why Should I Join a Mesothelioma Class Action or MDL?

The decision to join a class action or MDL is an individual one that should only come after careful consideration and consulting with a qualified mesothelioma attorney. In the case of some class actions the jury awards have been staggering but the individual awards were dismal. Take, for example, Libby, Montana, where a judge approved a $43 million settlement in 2011 for victims of the W.R. Grace & Co. mine. Because the case was a class action, the award was divvied up among the member. Instead of large jury awards, each individual received between $500 and $50,000.

For those who filed MDLs, the outcomes were much better. There have been many large-scale jury awards in asbestos-related cases in the past decade, with the average trial award about $2.4 million.

  • In 2002, a New York jury awarded a 75-year-old mesothelioma victim $19.5 million when two companies -- The Okonite Company and John Crane Inc. -- were found liable.
  • In 2011, the widow of a U.S. Navy veteran who died from mesothelioma was awarded $8 million after she sued the New York-based gasket maker Crane Co.
  • In 2013, a Florida jury awarded a mesothelioma victim $8 million, after he sued Crane Co. and the cigarette manufacturer Lorillard Tobacco Co.

For those who are considering filing a lawsuit, it is important to first consult with an experienced mesothelioma lawyer for your best options.

Sources

Gonzalez, Steve. “Class action and asbestos reform: what you need to know.” The Madison-St. Clair Record. Retrieved from http://madisonrecord.com/news/141546-class-action-and-asbestos-reform-what-you-need-to-know

Murphy, Kim. “$43-million settlement approved for asbestos victims in Libby, Mont.” Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/nationnow/2011/09/libby-montana-asbestos-settlement.html