Class Action Lawsuits and Mesothelioma

Class action lawsuits are civil lawsuits in which a group of people are represented as one.

The group of people who were wronged by the defendant are all represented by the same lawyer or firm and have essentially been harmed in a similar fashion. It is up to the court to decide whether it makes more sense, by way of efficiency, to allow a group to be represented as a class or for people within the group to be represented as individuals.

In the 1960s, litigation against companies involving mesothelioma were class-action, which were seen as an efficient approach at the time. Contemporary suits, however, are more likely to be individual suits, as judges and lawyers tend to find the approach to me more appropriate for mesothelioma with its sometimes decades-long latency period.

In more recent cases, asbestos and mesothelioma lawsuits are rarely class-action and are more often filed by attorneys on behalf of the client for wrongful death or personal injury.

In class-action suits, judges hear a single case that is representative of all plaintiffs, as opposed to the minutia of each individual’s experience. Though federal and state courts have their own, respective rules regarding class-action suits, there is general consensus that the circumstances and injuries/illness for members of the class must be similar.

In 2019 alone, a KCIC report showed 4,062 asbestos lawsuits in the United States. If all of the lawsuits were to have been combined, many of the individuals would not be well-represented or have as favorable results as every case of asbestos exposure is unique.

Mesothelioma Class-Action Lawsuit Alternatives

Several options are available for mesothelioma victims besides class-action suits.

Trust funds, Department of Veterans Affairs, and workers’ compensation may be be available to provide compensation. 

Class action suits are not mandatory for those involved in the injury or wrongful death and potential participants may opt out in order to pursue a suit as an individual.

Comparing Asbestos Individual Claims with Class-Action Lawsuits

In class-action suits, where each plaintiff is a part of a class group, the individual has less control in the case and claimants take shares of the compensation awarded.

Both individual and class-action suits are usually settled out of court, with negotiations in the latter being generally more complicated as there must be agreement between the plaintiffs.

When weighing your options for representation, it’s important that you find and work with a law firm that is either experienced in asbestos claims or specializes in them. 

Both mesothelioma class-action suits and individual claims tend to be settled out of court in the United States, with class-action suits likely to be more complex due to most, if not all, plaintiffs involved needing to be in agreement on the terms.

Filing an Asbestos Claim

In order to file an asbestos claim, medical records must support a diagnosis of mesothelioma or other asbestos-related disease, and documentation must be gathered regarding the company or companies responsible for the exposure and resultant health issues.

In these cases, defendants may be asbestos manufacturers or distributors, construction and mining companies, or companies otherwise involved in the process. Asbestos-specializing attorneys can help with this aspect. 

There may be, it should be noted, a statute of limitations in your area, which usually states that suits must be filed a maximum of two years after a mesothelioma diagnosis.

It is up to the court to decide whether or not to classify a group as a class if it is determined that the individual cases would be overly impractical.

A Brief History of Class-Action Suits Involving Mesothelioma and Asbestos

Though consolidated asbestos trials (wherein multiple trials are simultaneously put before a jury) have been held in special courts, federal courts have been led to forgo class-action suits by two notable cases.

1991 Consolidation of Federal Asbestos Cases

Around 3000 cases were transferred into a consolidated case in 1991 in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, in light of a significant uptick in  asbestos-related diseases in the 1980s from workers exposed during and after World War II, which found the courts filled with cases surrounding mesothelioma. 

With the uniqueness of the individual mesothelioma cases, class actions were found to be insufficient for tackling the caseloads and so consolidation was found to be the best solution.

1994: Georgine v. Amchem

The Third Court of Appeals ruled against a settlement for upwards of 2 million asbestos-exposed people.

The appeals court rejected the wishes of the plaintiffs and defense lawyers to set up a payment plan for present and future cases with so many individuals’ prognoses post-exposure unknown.

“Most notably, the settlement would extinguish asbestos-related causes of action of exposed individuals who currently suffer no physical ailments, but who may, in the future, develop possibly fatal asbestos-related disease,” the court said.  “These “futures claims” of “exposure-only” plaintiffs would be extinguished even though they have not yet accrued.”

1999: Ortiz v. Fibreboard

The precedent set by Georgine v. Amchem was upheld by the United States Supreme Court in Ortiz v. Fibreboard when the issue once again arose of not all potential claimants having the chance to file claims as no one is eligible for filing a lawsuit prior to receiving a diagnosis related to asbestos exposure.

Class-action suits are less common, though there are some states that are more likely to certify them than federal courts.

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Mesothelioma Class-Action Lawsuits

Can I join or file a mesothelioma class-action suit?

Individual lawsuits find claimants faring better, compensation-wise, than the less-frequently filed class-action mesothelioma suits. In class-action suits, claimants take a portion of the shared award and have less control than in individually filed cases.

What non-class-action forms of compensation exist for asbestos exposure?

Trust funds, settlements, and mesothelioma lawsuits are the most common forms of compensation outside class-action suits. Though asbestos trust funds may be available, they typically fall behind lawsuits with regards to awarded compensation. If it is deemed that the best course of action is not to pursue trial, out-of-court settlements can be negotiated by qualified attorneys. Patients may file a mesothelioma lawsuit for lost wages, medical bills, and other financial issues related to exposure.

Am I able to file a lawsuit if I have been diagnosed with mesothelioma?

The asbestos-related cancer, mesothelioma, is preventable and, with a diagnosis, you are eligible for compensation via a lawsuit against responsible companies. Using a lawyer experienced with mesothelioma cases is likely to bring you better results. 

How much compensation can I expect from a mesothelioma lawsuit?

Settlements have ranged from $1 to $1.4 million, whereas the average payout for a non-class-action suit is around $2.4 million.