Many people who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma want to know if they have any legal rights, or if their family members have legal rights when it comes to holding certain parties accountable for a malignant mesothelioma diagnosis and seeking financial compensation for the losses associated with mesothelioma treatment, disability, and ultimately death. In short, given that the majority of malignant mesothelioma cases result from asbestos exposure at some point in a person’s lifetime, it may be possible to file a lawsuit against one or more parties in order to seek financial compensation to pay for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and the loss of enjoyment of life. When a loved one dies as a result of mesothelioma, surviving family members may be able to obtain similar forms of compensation, as well as compensation for burial expenses, lost future wages, loss of companionship or consortium, and pain and suffering due to the loss of a loved one.
The specific type of damages you can seek, as well as the party who is eligible to file, will depend upon the state in which you are bringing a claim. You should know that most mesothelioma lawsuits are based in state law, so it will be critical to understand the particular laws of your state (or the state where you are filing a lawsuit) and how they will apply to your case. Most mesothelioma patients or their loved ones who are filing a claim will file the lawsuit in their state of residence, but it also may be possible to file in another state, such as the state where the asbestos exposure occurred, or the state where the business is located that made the dangerous asbestos-containing product.
It is critical to hold manufacturers and companies accountable for the harm they have caused by making and selling asbestos-containing products. In many circumstances, these businesses knew what they were making was dangerous, and they failed to warn consumers and others about the serious and life-threatening risks associated with using these products. Depending upon the specific facts of your case, you could be eligible to file a product liability lawsuit or another type of injury lawsuit against a defendant who is liable for mesothelioma results from asbestos exposure. You may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit or a wrongful death lawsuit under state law.
Understanding Legal Rights Concerning a Mesothelioma Diagnosis
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you may be eligible to file a lawsuit. Many different kinds of lawsuits may be possible, such as:
- Product liability lawsuit holding the manufacturer or company that made or sold an asbestos-containing product accountable for the harm they have caused;
- Toxic tort lawsuit if a defendant knew about the presence of asbestos and failed to warn about it or to take asbestos abatement measures or to supply necessary protective equipment and training for properly using that protective equipment
- Medical malpractice lawsuit if a health care provider failed to accurately diagnose your mesothelioma in a timely manner, and you lost time as a result and have experienced additional pain and suffering as a result;
- Premises liability lawsuit in which a property owner or manager knew of asbestos on the premises and failed to remedy it or to warn others about the possibility of exposure; or
- Another type of civil lawsuit designed to hold a defendant accountable for your asbestos exposure or mesothelioma diagnosis.
Product Liability Lawsuits and Asbestos Exposure: How Do They Work?
Product liability lawsuits, also known as product defect lawsuits or claims, are among the most common types of mesothelioma lawsuits related to asbestos exposure. These lawsuits are a form of personal injury lawsuit, and they allow a plaintiff to hold a designer, manufacturer, or retailer accountable for a product defect. In mesothelioma cases linked to asbestos exposure, the defect is that the product contained asbestos and the defendant failed to warn about possible consequences of use or exposure.
Generally speaking, as the Cornell Legal Information Institute (LII) explains, there are three types of product liability lawsuits that a person may be eligible to file:
- Design defect;
- Manufacturing defect; or
- Marketing defect, which is also known as a failure to warn.
Most mesothelioma product liability lawsuits are marketing defect claims in which the plaintiff alleges that the defendant failed to warn about risks associated with use of the product.
Medical Malpractice Lawsuits for Delayed Diagnosis or Misdiagnosis
Some mesothelioma lawsuits also may be filed as medical malpractice lawsuits. In some cases, a patient may present with signs or symptoms of mesothelioma, and a health care provider might fail to accurately diagnose the deadly disease. The health care provider might negligently fail to order follow-up tests, might erroneously read an X-ray or another type of scan, might make a mistake in assessing a lung sample sent to a laboratory, or might fail to recommend the patient see a specialist. In short, when a mesothelioma case is not properly diagnosed in a timely manner, the patient may be able to file a delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis claim.
Personal Injury Lawsuits Based on a Theory of Negligence for Asbestos Exposure and Mesothelioma
As noted above, in addition to product liability lawsuits or medical malpractice lawsuits, you may be able to hold others accountable for asbestos exposure or a mesothelioma diagnosis. Property owners or managers, or those tasked with identifying asbestos and negligently failing to identify its presence, could be liable if you were exposed to asbestos and later diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma or another type of disease tied to asbestos exposure. It will be important to discuss the particular facts of your case with a lawyer who can determine which party or parties could be liable in a mesothelioma-related lawsuit.
Statute of Limitations for Injury Claims Arising Out of a Mesothelioma Diagnosis
The statute of limitations is the clock, or amount of time you have, to file a lawsuit. While most personal injury statutes of limitations will have a clock that starts to tick on the date of the exposure or incident, most mesothelioma cases have a clock that will begin to tick on the date of the patient’s diagnosis. These extended statutes of limitations recognize that mesothelioma cases are not usually diagnosed for 10 to 40 years from the date of the initial asbestos exposure, so there is a need for an additional timeline. You should check the law in the state where you are filing a claim to determine the statute of limitations.
Wrongful death lawsuits resulting from malignant mesothelioma diagnoses will have their own statute of limitations under state law, and the clock usually starts ticking on the date of the deceased’s death.
Common Damages in a Mesothelioma Lawsuit
In most mesothelioma lawsuits, whether you are filing a product liability lawsuit or another type of lawsuit, you may be eligible to seek compensatory damages. Depending upon the state in which you are filing your claim, certain types of compensatory damages known as non-economic damages may be capped. In general, compensatory damages include two types of damages, which may go by slightly different names or terms in different states:
- Economic damages, which are damages that compensate a plaintiff for direct financial losses like hospital bills, medical treatments and tests, medications, and lost wages; and
- Non-economic damages, which are damages that compensate a plaintiff for indirect and subjective losses like pain and suffering, or the loss of enjoyment of life.
Non-economic damages are significantly more difficult to quantify because there is no objective amount associated with the plaintiff’s losses. Instead, juries need to consider a wide variety of factors in deciding what type of non-economic damages award is appropriate in a particular case. In some states, as we mentioned, non-economic damages are capped at a certain amount. Depending upon the specific state, non-economic damages could be capped at a particular percentage or portion of economic damages (e.g., no more than three times or 300 percent of the economic damages awarded) or at a specific amount (e.g., non-economic damages cannot exceed $1 million). In many states, there is no cap on non-economic damages at all.
In some mesothelioma lawsuits, you may also be able to seek punitive damages. Unlike compensatory damages that are designed to compensate a plaintiff for losses, punitive damages are designed to punish the defendant for wrongdoing. When the company or manufacturer you are suing knew about the risks of asbestos exposure and intentionally failed to warn consumers or other parties about those risks in order to increase profits, you may be able to seek punitive damages. Generally speaking, punitive damages are appropriate in cases where the defendant is responsible for more than just ordinary negligence. For punitive damages to be awarded, you must usually show that the defendant’s behavior was reckless or egregious, or that it showed a reckless disregard for human life. Your specific state laws will clarify what you need to prove in order to seek and to be awarded punitive damages in a mesothelioma lawsuit.
Understanding the Laws in Your State and Seeking Legal Counsel
It is critical to understand the laws in the state where you are filing your mesothelioma lawsuit and to seek counsel from an experienced injury lawyer with knowledge of mesothelioma claims. Any mesothelioma-related lawsuit, whether it is a product liability lawsuit, a medical malpractice claim, a wrongful death lawsuit, or another type of injury case will be filed according to state law. As such, it is essential to have an injury lawyer on your side with experience representing clients in mesothelioma-related lawsuits under a specific state’s laws.