An Overview of Mesothelioma Law


Area of Law: 

Mesothelioma law is a rapidly growing sector of law practice, and sadly, business is booming.  This is due to the fact that so many people were unwittingly exposed to asbestos before the deadly aspects of it were understood.  Now that people are beginning to get mesothelioma from asbestos poisoning decades after the fact, an entire legal industry has cropped up around the need for the wronged parties to claim compensation, not only for their own medical expenses, but for the security of their families.


The most common sufferers of mesothelioma are those who had jobs working in asbestos mining, manufacturing, or processing.  Before the dangers of asbestos were known, millions of people had extensive exposure without knowing it was hazardous, and some were not even aware of the presence of asbestos at all.


Mesothelioma cases are tricky for several reasons.  One, the appearance of the cancer often happens as late as half a century after the asbestos exposure, making it challenging for the legal team to draw conclusive links between asbestos and the disease it has caused.  Two, time is often a factor in the legal process, as mesothelioma tends toward late diagnosis.  By the time the sufferer knows what the problem is, the cancer can be in such an advanced stage that there are few or no options left.  In these cases, the prognosis does not leave much room for a lengthy trial, as the sufferer will want to secure compensation for his or her family while he or she is still alive.  While some people with a delayed diagnosis can live for several years, others only have a few months to get everything sorted out.


Both The American Bar Association and the U.S. Supreme court are trying to deal with the ever-evolving issues surrounding mesothelioma litigation.  Claimants are often encouraged by their lawyers to file a lawsuit as soon as possible, even if no diagnosis has been made and no symptoms have been observed.  This is to keep ahead of the panic about a statute of limitations.  Unfortunately, this flood of lawsuits has clogged up the claims process, and the result has been that many sufferers in the advanced stages of disease cannot have their cases heard in a timely fashion, which is of course extremely worrying.


In 1997 and again in 1999, the Supreme Court rejected a class action settlement designed to prevent any future sufferers from claiming the right to compensation.  In 2005, Congress failed to pass a Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution Act.  The idea behind the bill was to establish a $140 billion trust fund so that victims of asbestos could be compensated outside the court system.  However, it was found that the bill in its original form would unfairly exclude many sufferers who had fallen ill from asbestos-related poisoning, and in the absence of acceptable revised criteria, the bill was rejected.