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Articles Posted in Mesothelioma Court Rulings & Legislation

The NJ appeals court recently upheld a sanction against Ford in a mesothelioma case involving second-hand asbestos exposure. When Mrs. A.C (a name used for purposes of this article) was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, her family filed a lawsuit against Ford Motor Company, her husband’s former employer. According to the family, Mrs. A.C developed mesothelioma after inhaling asbestos fibers from her husband’s clothing during the 30 years that he worked as a service manager for the motor dealerships. During the trial, Ford Motor Company withheld evidence in violation of discovery rules, which led to the court imposing a significant sanction. Ford appealed the decision and the sanction, but the NJ state appeals court refused to set the sanctions aside.

For many years, Mrs. A.C’s family had tried to obtain the training manuals for Ford so that they could prove to the court that the company had not warned its workers about the dangers of asbestos in brake dust. Unfortunately, the family was not able to obtain those materials. Instead of producing the information, a corporate representative testified that he could not locate it. He said that none of the manuals were found.

In response, Mrs. A.C’s attorney confronted the representative with a copy of the manual. After the confrontation, the representative confessed that he had seen the manual before and even answered questions about it in previous asbestos cases. After learning that the representative had withheld evidence, the court imposed the sanction that went beyond the jury’s $800,000 verdict.

Usually, cases that involve legal and factual issues require depositions. Because mesothelioma cases involve such matters, they require depositions. For most people, the topic of depositions is one they do not understand quite well. Even if you have experienced a deposition in another setting, you might find a mesothelioma deposition different. This article shares some basics on mesothelioma depositions.

What is a Mesothelioma Deposition?

When a case involves legal and factual issues, all named parties have the right to conduct a formal investigation to find out more. Discovery comes in many forms, one of the most common being depositions. A deposition involves taking an oral statement of a plaintiff or witness before trial, under oath. Therefore, a mesothelioma deposition generally consists of taking a verbal statement of the patient and people with knowledge about how the patient developed their illness.

California has allowed victims’ pain and suffering damages to die with them for decades. In other words, California has long barred surviving family members from obtaining pain and suffering damages. Usually, pain and suffering damages are the greatest sum of money at stake in a civil suit. For a very long time, California law limited the damages that surviving family members could recover to the loss or damage that the decedent incurred before their death, including punitive damages that the decedent could have been entitled to recover if they had lived.

Finally, in January 2022, amendments to the California law that long barred surviving family members from recovering pain and suffering damages went into effect. California’s new law now allows surviving family members to recover pain and suffering damages on behalf of their deceased loved ones. Senate Bill No. 447 (SB 447) increased the number of payable damages to include pain and suffering damages.

Before the passing of SB 447, liable parties used to take advantage of the fact that surviving family members could not recover pain and suffering damages, which often resulted in multi-million-dollar payouts. When companies and individuals were sued, they used to drag out the trial, hoping that the plaintiff would die, allowing them to save money. To some, the previous California law rewarded companies and individuals for bad behavior (prolonging court procedures). Hopefully, SB 447 will end the injustice by allowing family members to pursue suffering damages even if their loved one dies before their claims are resolved.

Secondary asbestos exposure, also known as second-hand asbestos exposure, is when someone who works directly with asbestos or asbestos-contaminated material carries asbestos fibers home and exposes their household members to those fibers. When a worker brings home asbestos fibers, they put their loved ones at risk of developing asbestos-related illnesses such as mesothelioma and asbestosis. Secondary asbestos exposure is especially frequent among women and children, although men too can fall victim to this kind of asbestos exposure.

Before the dangerous effects of asbestos became known, and before strict regulations were passed, people working with asbestos often brought home asbestos fibers in their person. However, over the decades, cases of second-hand asbestos exposure have reduced. Because of this reduction, one might wonder why courts are seeing many secondary asbestos exposure lawsuits. One main reason is that doctors are getting better at diagnosing asbestos-related diseases, such as mesothelioma. Years ago, if an individual without obvious asbestos exposure exhibited mesothelioma-like symptoms, they would have most likely been overlooked. However, today, because of the advancement in science and medicine, medical professionals are able to figure out if indeed a person without any obvious asbestos exposure is suffering from mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma Has a Long Latency Period

Most juries spend weeks hearing evidence about how a victim developed mesothelioma and debating whether negligence played a part in the victim developing the disease. However, unlike most juries who disagree on evidence and whether negligence was involved, the Wisconsin jury in a recently decided mesothelioma case disagreed on the amount of compensation to be awarded to the victim’s family. While in the end, the jury members agreed that Pabst should pay the victim’s family more than $26 million, two of the jury members disagreed, arguing that the company should be made to pay much more.

The family of the mesothelioma victim, a grandfather who worked at Pabst Blue Ribbon’s Milwaukee Brewery, initiated the lawsuit. During his time at Pabst, the mesothelioma victim was exposed to asbestos. Pabst Blue Ribbon’s Milwaukee Brewery employed the mesothelioma victim in the 1970s. It was during those years that the dangers of asbestos and its role in mesothelioma became well known. But, despite Pabst knowing the dangers of asbestos and its role in mesothelioma, the company did not take any steps to protect its workers. Pabst even let its workers get exposed to asbestos in the lunchroom. Pabst’s lunchroom was equipped with asbestos-contaminated pipes from which asbestos fell.

Initially, the family accused Pabst Blue Ribbon’s Milwaukee Brewery and Wisconsin Electric (another of the victim’s former employers) of failing to provide its workers with a safe working environment. After the original claim was filed, Wisconsin Electric decided to settle the case outside the court. On the other hand, Pabst insisted on going to court. The company argued against its own responsibility, which angered the jury.

Across separate settlements, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) commits to accelerate and strengthen asbestos risk reevaluation under the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA). On October 13, 2021, the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), an organization dedicated to preventing asbestos exposure, said that the organization and its allies had reached settlements with EPA regarding the toxic mineral that causes mesothelioma. These settlements come after a heated legal battle over a contentious risk assessment. ADAO and its allies have been pushing for a comprehensive second risk evaluation for asbestos for some time now and are glad they struck these settlements with the EPA. According to the president and co-founder of ADAO, Linda Reinstein, a more robust and comprehensive evaluation will better document the massive harm asbestos continues to cause in America.

As per the deal, the Environmental Protection Agency will finish the second risk assessment by December 1, 2024. The second risk evaluation is expected to address the deficiencies in the first risk evaluation. In an agreement, the EPA agreed to, among other things;

  • Expand its second risk evaluation to include all six asbestos fiber types instead of only chrysotile asbestos.

When it comes to asbestos production and use, once an individual or company fails to abide by the set rules, they can either face criminal or civil charges. Different states enforce different rules, but both OSHA and the EPA have the right to enforce the law at the federal level. When it comes to the EPA, the agency takes the enforcement of environmental laws seriously. To the EPA, enforcing these laws ensures that human health and the environment remain protected. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency works hard to ensure people and companies comply with environmental requirements. Whenever warranted, the agency will take either civil or criminal action against people or companies that violate environmental laws.

There is a huge difference between civil and criminal asbestos cases, and the Environmental Protection Agency addresses these differences on its website. According to the website, the two mainly differ in:

  • Legal standard

A New Orleans, Louisiana jury recently awarded an $8.2 million mesothelioma verdict to a former mechanic against Ford. Ford Motor Company is a multinational company that designs, manufactures, markets, and services cars, trucks, utility vehicles, and luxury vehicles. After only 60 minutes of deliberation, the Louisiana jury ordered the manufacturing giant to pay the victim $8,261,874 as compensation for the malignant mesothelioma he blamed on the repeated asbestos exposure he suffered while servicing vehicles manufactured by Ford. The jury’s quick decision came after three weeks of testimony about how the former mechanic was repeatedly exposed to asbestos while servicing clutches and brakes installed on Ford vehicles and buses.

Over a year ago, the Louisiana resident was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a rare and fatal cancer. Immediately the former mechanic learned that he had mesothelioma, he filed a negligence and strict liability lawsuit against Ford Motor Company. The former mechanic worked as a gas station mechanic and as a school bus mechanic. It was while working these jobs in the 1960s and 70s that he suffered repeated asbestos exposure. While servicing asbestos-containing clutches and brakes on vehicles manufactured by Ford, the former mechanic was exposed to asbestos dust. When asbestos fibers get stuck in the lining of the lungs after being inhaled, they cause inflammation and scarring to DNA and mesothelial cells. Mesothelioma then develops due to the inflammation, typically decades after initial asbestos exposure.

Ford Motor Company’s failure to warn of the presence of asbestos or related dangers was at the heart of this mesothelioma litigation. The plaintiff’s attorneys and the jury determined that Ford knew about the dangers of asbestos long before the former mechanic’s exposure. They also determined that the manufacturing giant failed to warn the former mechanic about the dangers of asbestos. Due to that, the jury awarded the plaintiff $8.2. million in compensatory damages.

According to a July 8, 2021 opinion, Washington Supreme Court reinstated an $81.5 million ruling in full after overturning an appellate court ruling for a wrongful death claim of an auto mechanic. According to the Supreme Court ruling, the Court of Appeals “overstepped the limited role played by appellate courts in the civil justice system and substituted its own subjective judgment for that of the jury and trial courts based on nothing more than the size of the verdict.”

The original claim was brought forward by the family and estate of the deceased mechanic who died in 2015 at the age of 67 of peritoneal mesothelioma. In 2017, after an approximately 12-week trial, a jury unanimously found NAPA Auto Parts and Genuine Parts Corp (GPC) liable in the mechanic’s death and awarded the deceased mechanic’s survivors $81.5 million. In its verdict, the jury found that NAPA and GPC were strictly liable and negligent for their defective asbestos-containing products used by the mechanic. Before his diagnosis and death, the deceased had worked with brake pads containing asbestos, and other parts manufactured by GPC and sold through NAPA for decades.

After the jury awarded the $81.5 million to the deceased’s mechanic’s survivors, GPC and NAPA moved for a new trial or alternatively to have the damages awarded lowered, which the trial court denied. The Court of Appeals then vacated the jury’s $81.5 million verdict and reversed the trial court in part. The Court of Appeals concluded that the trial court made a mistake when it excluded one of NAPA and GPC’s expert witnesses and applied what was referred to as “subjective determination.” The Court of Appeals also concluded that the jury’s award was excessive and ordered a new trial on damages.

When faced with a personal injury or wrongful death claim situation, it can get confusing and complicated. Things can get especially complicated and confusing for a person dealing with a mesothelioma case. Mesothelioma is a type of cancer caused by asbestos. It is a type of cancer that can be so deadly because of the precise reason that it can go unnoticed for decades. Every year, there are about 3,000 new mesothelioma diagnoses in the United States. Unfortunately, since mesothelioma’s diagnosis rate is not as high as that of other types of cancer, a lot of misinformation surrounds mesothelioma legal claims. Misconceptions about mesothelioma legal claims can cause people to make decisions that may not be in their best interests.

Below are four common myths about mesothelioma legal claims.

Myth #1: An Individual Can Wait as Long as They Want to Begin the Legal Process

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