folder Medically Reviewed By

Expert Fact Checked

This page was medically reviewed by on . For information on our content creation and review process read our editorial guidelines. If you notice an error or have comments or questions on our content please contact us.

Mesothelioma Lawsuit

If you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma, seek the help of an experienced lawyer to determine if you are eligible to file a mesothelioma lawsuit.

Request a Free 2024 Mesothelioma Legal Guide

Key Points

  • 1

    There are several types of mesothelioma lawsuits you may be eligible for.

  • 2

    Though each lawsuit is unique, there are some common stages throughout the process.

  • 3

    It’s important to be prepared for the defendants’ harsh tactics in these cases.

  • 4

    Working with an experienced lawyer is vital to handling the complex legal process.

Due to the nature of asbestos exposure and with so many asbestos companies knowingly putting employees and their families at risk, mesothelioma victims and their loved ones have legal rights. Filing a mesothelioma lawsuit may seem like a daunting process, but can help mesothelioma victims get the compensation they deserve. Mesothelioma is entirely preventable, though most employees or even the larger public aren’t properly warned about the dangers of asbestos and the severe side effects of exposure.

In so many instances, mesothelioma victims were unknowingly exposed on the job or by secondhand exposure from a loved one who came into contact with the mineral. These companies who produced or distributed asbestos products or utilized the mineral for their processes need to be held liable through mesothelioma litigation for causing such needless pain and suffering to so many.

Considering Filing a Mesothelioma Lawsuit

After hearing such a devastating diagnosis, understandably most want to focus on their health and receiving the best treatment possible. Unfortunately, any cancer diagnosis is expensive, and mesothelioma is no exception. The costs of properly diagnosing asbestos-related disease and undergoing treatment, on top of secondary expenses like traveling to a mesothelioma specialist and lodging during treatment, are much too high for the average family to afford.

Taking the time to look at legal options with an experienced mesothelioma lawyer can help victims and their families cover the large costs of treatment, as well as compensate for loss of income and the pain and suffering such a diagnosis causes. Starting the mesothelioma litigation process can seem daunting, especially when going through treatment or mourning the loss of a loved one lost to mesothelioma cancer. But each state has a rather short statute of limitations allowing such claims to be filed, ranging from 1 to 6 years depending on the type of lawsuit. Victims and their loved ones should explore their legal options sooner rather than later to avoid missing out on the potential for mesothelioma compensation.

Types of Mesothelioma Lawsuits

In general, there are two main types of mesothelioma lawsuits: personal injury lawsuits or wrongful death lawsuits. The type of legal claim filed depends on who is filing, whether it’s the mesothelioma patient or surviving family members.

Types of Mesothelioma Lawsuits
Personal Injury Lawsuit
  • Filed by the mesothelioma victim following diagnosis
  • Claim brought against the companies responsible for victim’s asbestos exposure and resulting diagnosis
  • Allows recovery of money related to treatment costs, travel, lost income, pain and suffering
Wrongful Death Lawsuit
  • Filed by surviving family members in cases of the patient passing away
  • Claim brought against companies responsible for asbestos exposure and wrongful death
  • Allows recovery of money related to outstanding medical bills, travel, lost income, pain and suffering, funeral expenses

The statute of limitations varies by state for personal injury claims and wrongful death claims, so it’s important to discuss your options with an experienced mesothelioma attorney as soon as possible.

Other Types of Mesothelioma Lawsuits

In addition to these two primary types of mesothelioma lawsuits, individuals may see a difference in how their case is handled, whether as an individual lawsuit or as part of a mass tort like a mesothelioma class action lawsuit. Your lawyer will be able to explain the best option for your individual mesothelioma case.

Individual Claims
  • An individual patient or surviving family sue the company or companies responsible for asbestos exposure
  • Each side presents evidence to the judge on a one-to-one basis
  • Resolved when settlement is reached or jury reaches a verdict
Class Action Lawsuits
  • Many mesothelioma victims collectively bringing legal action against an asbestos company
  • Can include hundreds to thousands of claimants with similar asbestos cases
  • On an individual basis, victims can choose to stay in the mesothelioma class action lawsuit or opt out
Multidistrict Litigation (MDL)
  • Victims can file a mesothelioma claim that is handled through a more efficient legal process
  • MDL 875 was formed in 1991 and is the primary MDL for mesothelioma cases
  • Since its formation, over 186,000 cases have been filed under the MDL

How to File a Mesothelioma Lawsuit

Every mesothelioma lawsuit is different, but there are some general stages that are common to each case. As you consider taking legal action and first consult a lawyer, these are the basic steps you can consider throughout the process. Your lawyer will be able to advise you about any changes based on your individual situation.

Consultation: Before filing an asbestos lawsuit after a mesothelioma diagnosis, your lawyer will offer a free analysis of your case and explain the various parts of the process to you. You will be able to ask questions and express any concerns you might have about the legal process during this conversation. At the end, you will be able to choose whether or not to pursue a lawsuit.

Research: Once you have decided to pursue a mesothelioma lawsuit, your legal team will go into research mode, using all of the knowledge, experience, and resources available to them. This includes gathering documentation and data related to your mesothelioma case, which can take a significant amount of time, so starting the process right away is extremely important.

Evidence Gathered During Research
  • Medical reports
  • Employment history
  • Military service records
  • Union membership
  • Witness statements
  • Expert depositions

Compensation Options: Before filing a lawsuit, your lawyers will investigate the possibility of receiving compensation from an asbestos trust fund, along with other potential recovery options. This part of the process includes determining whether your situation matches bankruptcy trust fund guidelines, or if you may be able to take action against a company which has not yet admitted asbestos liability.

Venue Selection: After other compensation options have been explored, the next step is to determine which venue is right for your asbestos lawsuit. You can file in any state where you have lived, worked, served in the military, or otherwise been exposed to asbestos. However, certain considerations may make some venues more favorable to plaintiffs than others, including calendar/scheduling concerns, the process timeline, average settlement and verdict amounts, and various local or state laws.

Filing and Discovery: After deciding the best venue, the actual lawsuit can be filed. The complaint will include the details of your suit, including the named defendants, causes of action, and specifics about each claim. The filing will launch the Discovery Phase, in which both sides present information in support of their arguments and file motions, often with the intent of reaching a settlement before the case goes to a full trial.

Mesothelioma lawsuits rarely reach a full jury trial, since most of them are settled during the Discovery Phase. As the plaintiff, you will always have the final say in whether to accept a settlement or pursue a trial. In the event a case does go to trial, having an asbestos attorney with experience and the resources of a focused mesothelioma law firm are essential to receiving the compensation you deserve.

Most Notable Mesothelioma Lawsuit Settlements and Verdicts

Asbestos litigation has a long history in the United States, with one of the first well-known lawsuits filed against an asbestos company occurring back in 1929. It was really in the 1960s and 1970s, though, that the connect between asbestos exposure and severe health risks like mesothelioma were indisputable, which lead to thousands of more lawsuits against asbestos companies. Over the years, asbestos manufacturers have paid billions of dollars in mesothelioma settlements and verdicts.

1971: Considered a landmark decision in asbestos litigation, the case of Borel vs. Fiberboard Paper Products Corporation is noted as the first mesothelioma lawsuit to rule in favor of the claimant and award a verdict. Clarence Borel was an insulator and came into contact with a number of asbestos products from different companies and was later diagnosed with mesothelioma. Borel unfortunately passed away before the trial ended, though the jury awarded his widow over $79,000.

2003: In one of the largest trial verdicts for a single plaintiff, Roby Whittington was awarded $250 million in a verdict against U.S. Steel. Whittington worked in one of the company’s plants from 1950 to 1971 and was exposed to asbestos, later resulting in a mesothelioma diagnosis. Later, U.S. Steel said they settled the case for an undisclosed amount.

2011: Among one of the highest mesothelioma verdicts seen in New York, $32 million was awarded to U.S. Navy veteran Ronald Dummit and his wife. Dummit developed pleural mesothelioma years after working in the boiler rooms of various ships from the 1960s to 1970s. Dummit stated he was not properly warned about the presence and dangers of asbestos on the ships.

2015: One of the first trial verdicts in an asbestos talcum powder lawsuit was awarded to Judith Winkel. In her case, Winkel claimed her mesothelioma developed because of asbestos exposure from using Colgate-Palmolive’s Cashmere Bouquet talcum powder for about a decade. They jury concluded the manufacturer was negligent with this product and awarded $13 million to Winkel.

Learn More About the Mesothelioma Settlement Process

What to Expect from the Defendants During the Lawsuit Process

Though your mesothelioma lawyers will take care of the research, documentation, and everything else needed for your lawsuit, you need to be prepared for how the defendants will respond throughout the process. Claimants need to be mentally prepared for some of the harsh tactics defendants often turn to during these cases.

The lawyers for asbestos companies have one goal in mind: to discredit you and blame your mesothelioma diagnosis on any cause other than the companies’ wrongdoings. As such, they will often make negative claims about you and your family to deny fault.

Commonly Used Negative Claims
  • You have a history of smoking, drinking, or using illegal substances.
  • Your family shows a medical history of serious health problems.
  • You are lying or wrong about where and when you were exposed to asbestos.
  • You have a genetic predisposition for mesothelioma (or other forms of cancer).
  • Your doctor is not qualified to diagnose mesothelioma or made a mistake when doing so.

Hearing such accusations about yourself or loved ones can be disheartening and cause anxiety, anger or frustration. It’s important to remember the lawyers are simply using any tactic they can to deflect blame, and not to take these claims to heart. An experienced mesothelioma lawyer will be able to effectively respond to these accusations and counterclaims, allowing you to focus on treatment and being with your family.

Another way defendants’ lawyers will try to stifle your asbestos lawsuit is by using legal maneuvers in an attempt to get your complaint dismissed.

Common Claim Dismissal Tactics
  • Claiming you did not file within the time period specified by the statute of limitations
  • Attacking the validity of your petition on other technical grounds
  • Arguing that the venue where the lawsuit was filed is inappropriate
  • Asserting you do not have authorization to file on behalf of someone who died of mesothelioma

These types of procedural motions are rarely successful, and in many asbestos cases the defendants’ legal team will use them simply to extend the process in the hope that you will become frustrated and willing to settle for a lower amount.

What to Know Before Filing a Mesothelioma Lawsuit

As you consider the lawsuit process and whether or not its the right course of action for you and your loved ones, you most likely have many questions on what to expect and the next steps. Here are some common questions to keep in mind when considering your options.

How long does the lawsuit process take?

There are a number of factors that can impact how long a mesothelioma lawsuit will take, like the number of plaintiffs and defendants in the case and if it is consolidated with others. On average, the process typically takes between 1 and 3 years. In the event of your lawsuit going to trial, on average trials take 38 days, but you must also consider all the time that goes into the research and development of the case before this point.

How much do mesothelioma lawyers charge?

Asbestos claims are taken on contingency, meaning that you will not pay anything upfront. In fact, your mesothelioma lawyer will only get paid if he or she is able to help you receive compensation.

Since experienced law firms with streamlined resources know how to get compensation for their clients in an effective and efficient way, if the case does not go to trial, the total cost is usually around 3 – 5 percent of the total compensation amount. Note, however, that every case is different, and the actual amount paid will depend on your individual circumstances.

Where should I file my lawsuit?

An important decision when filing your lawsuit is determining the best venue to file in. In general, you can file a mesothelioma claim for any state where you have lived, worked or been exposed to asbestos. However, it’s important to keep in mind the different statute of limitations, rules, and eligibility requirements set in each state. This decision can become complex quickly depending on your case, so it’s important to work with a mesothelioma lawyer that has a deep understanding of all the state requirements.

If my case goes to trial, will I need to travel?

Mesothelioma lawyers understand that patients will often be unable to travel if their lawsuit was filed in a different state or they had to travel elsewhere for treatment. Lawyers will generally travel to you to for whatever they need pertaining to the case, like conducting interviews and gathering documentation.  Even if you are unable to be present in court, you will still be in full control of your legal rights and your lawyer will follow your instructions.

How much compensation can I expect if I pursue a lawsuit?

There are many factors that will determine the amount of compensation you may receive from your lawsuit.

Components Considered for Compensation Amounts
  • Medical expenses, including costs of diagnosis and treatment
  • Costs related to travel for treatment
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering
  • Funeral expenses in the case of wrongful death lawsuits

The exact amount that you receive will depend on the settlement amount offered or the amount awarded by the jury and/or judge.

Understanding Lawsuit Eligibility

Because of the nature of asbestos exposure, it can be unclear who you can file a lawsuit against and what kind of claim would be best for your individual case. These are some of the common questions asked, but be sure to consult a lawyer about the best legal options for you.

How long do I have to file?

The most important factor in determining how long you have to file is your state’s statute of limitations. This law specifies the filing deadline for both personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits. Most states have an average length statute of limitations between 2 – 3 years. However, some states only give you 1 year in which to file, while a very small handful of states have statutes longer than 3 years.

Because the deadline to file a mesothelioma lawsuit is so short, it is important to consult with an experienced attorney right away. Your lawyer will be able to inform you of the statute of limitations and any other deadlines applicable in your state.

If you did miss the time limit to file a lawsuit, there may be other options available for receiving compensation, including workers’ compensation, veterans’ benefits or claims against asbestos trust funds.

I don’t know how I was exposed to asbestos – who can I file a claim against?

Your legal team will begin the process by researching and gathering evidence, so it’s ok if you’re not entirely sure right off the bat how you came into contact with the toxin. Your lawyer will ask questions around where you have lived, the schools you attended, and look into places you have worked. If you served in any branch of the military, that will also be an important part of this phase as unfortunately many veterans are later diagnosed with mesothelioma.

For many, secondhand exposure and exposure at home is also becoming more common. As such, it’s important to work with a mesothelioma lawyer who will be able to help determine how and where exposure occurred and hold the responsible parties liable.