Asbestos and mesothelioma settlements began after a myriad of people were continuously exposed to asbestos without any warning of the life-threatening dangers that come along with inhaling and/or ingesting asbestos fibers. In many cases, the evidence is clear-cut and rather than fight through a trial, companies responsible for the manufacturing and distributing of asbestos and/or asbestos-containing products (ACMs) decide to settle with plaintiffs.
If you were diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer, or asbestosis, you may be entitled to considerable compensation. Use our free Asbestos Attorney Locator Tool today to find a leading mesothelioma attorney in your area. With over $30 billion currently in asbestos trust funds, now is the right time to take the first step in determining what you may qualify for.
Asbestos, Mass Torts, and the Largest Settlements
For nearly 50 years, the asbestos industry maintained a stranglehold on asbestos-related lawsuits and information about the dangers of asbestos exposure. By the mid-1950s, asbestos was not only a lucrative product for the American civilian economy, but also was an important commodity for national defense.
According to researcher Michelle White of the University of California at San Diego, the United States consumption of asbestos grew from 100,000 metric tons in 1932 to 700,000 metric tons in 1951. Asbestos consumption peaked in 1974 with 750,000 metric tons.
Asbestos use decreased only after the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 1970s report showed that mesothelioma and lung cancer were directly caused by asbestos exposure. Consequently, many states finally began to regulate and limit the use of asbestos products.
States also started creating asbestos abatement programs and changing workers’ compensation laws. Yet, the EPA report still didn’t stop many companies, especially those who were making a large profit off of asbestos.
Asbestos litigation has become one of the biggest issues for the legal community and society as a whole.
According to White’s 2004 study of asbestos and mass torts, by the close of 2002 “730,000 individuals had filed lawsuits against more than 8,400 defendants, and the total amount that defendants and insurers spent on resolving claims was more than $70 billion.”
Some of the largest settlements in U.S. courts involve asbestos-related cases. Here are some of the most notable awards:
In 2006, former plastic molder David Bakkie was awarded $18.5 million by a California jury in his lawsuit against Union Carbide. The 49-year-old Sacramento resident developed mesothelioma as a result of on-the-job asbestos exposure. He died of asbestos cancer on July 17, 2007.
In June of 2012, a jury in Los Angeles awarded $48 million to the family of Bobbie Izell, a former contractor who developed mesothelioma as a result of inhaling asbestos fibers while at work in the 1960s and 1970s.
Although Izell wasn’t exposed regularly to asbestos on the job site, it was his frequent home inspections that ultimately led to his illness. The family filed the lawsuit against Union Carbide.
Nancy Lopez vs. U.S. Engineering Co.
Nancy Lopez, a former Jackson County, Missouri court employee, was awarded $10 million after being exposed to asbestos during the renovations of a courthouse that occurred while she was working as a District 7 judicial administrative assistant.
The U.S. Engineering Co. was responsible for renovating the Jackson County, Missouri courthouse, starting in 1983. Lopez was continuously exposed to asbestos each day when she reported to work. Several decades later, she was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma.
In March of 2010, Lopez filed a lawsuit against U.S. Engineering, but only seven months later, in October, she passed away. Her mother, Ruth Lopez, continued the lawsuit on her behalf.
In addition to the $10 million against U.S. Engineering, Lopez’s family also received a $400,000 settlement from Jackson County, and $200,000 each, in cash settlements, from Lippert Mechanical Services Corp. and Johnson Controls.
John Mansville Employees vs. Travelers Insurance Corporations
A federal judge ordered the Travelers insurance corporation to pay $500 million to several victims who were exposed to asbestos while working for Johns Manville. Although the case went on for six years before a settlement was reached, it’s the largest settlement amount in asbestos litigation history.
The Travelers Indemnity Company, along with the Travelers Casualty and Surety Company of America, were the insurers for Johns Manville.
Ronald Dummit vs. The Crane Co.
In 2012, Doris K. Dummit, the widow of Robert Dummit, won a settlement amount of $8 million after her husband died from mesothelioma after prolonged exposure at work. Ronald, a United States Navy veteran, worked around asbestos for decades while employed by Crane Co.
Although Crane denied any wrongdoing and argued that they were not liable due to the government contract defense, it was decided that the company was 99% responsible for Ronald’s health complications after they maliciously hid known information about the hazardous effects of asbestos.
The verdict at the time was one of the largest sustained verdicts in the state of New York.
Employees vs. W.R. Grace & Co.
In 2011, a judge in Montana approved one of the largest settlements in history against the W.R. Grace & Co., in Libby, Montana. The settlement was $43 million, yet since over 1,300 former employee and contractors filed against W.R. Grace, the individual settlement amounts ranged from $500 to around $60,000 per plaintiff.
A few years earlier, in 2009, the company was also fined $54 million by the United States government for cleanup costs. The mine was littered with vermiculite, asbestos, and other dangerous products that put the public at risk.
In 2011, the family of the Hall of Fame NFL football player, Merlin Olsen, won a mesothelioma settlememt in Los Angeles against many different companies.
Even though the settlement amount was never made public, at least ten companies, including numerous asbestos manufacturers, agreed upon a large settlement after it was found that Olsen was exposed to asbestos for prolonged periods of time while working on construction projects as a teen and young adult.
Actor Paul Gleason, best known for his role as Principal Richard Vernon in The Breakfast Club, passed away from an asbestos-related disease in 2006. Although his out-of-court settlement was also made private, it was said to have been a substantial amount as well.
Ed Lauter, a well-known actor who has appeared in more than 200 movies and television shows, died of malignant mesothelioma in 2013. His family blames his asbestos exposure on multiple network stations and companies that provided ACMs to the movie sets and television studios.
Although a settlement in Lauter’s case has not yet been decided, his family filed a lawsuit against at least a dozen companies.
James Johnson vs. Various Asbsestos Manufacturers
In 2010, 75-year-old James Johnson, a New Jersey carpenter, received a $3 million settlement from various asbestos manufacturers that provided products to the many job sites he worked at throughout his career.
Although Johnson was in perfect health prior to developing malignant mesothelioma, the disease was so threatening that his health quickly deteriorated. He specialized in ceiling and commercial applications, and worked around a myriad of tiles that contained asbestos.
Important Information Regarding Settlement Amounts
Although it’s impossible to know exactly how much an asbestos lawsuit will bring, the aforementioned settlements show that not only do many defendants settle the case out of court, but also that asbestos cases have the potential of awarding victims of mesothelioma and other life-threatening illnesses, millions in damages.
It’s also important to note that the majority of settlement amounts are undisclosed. The previous cases are among the few that were made public. However, according to recent studies, the average mesothelioma settlement amount is between $1 million to $1.4 million.
Other factors to consider include:
It’s important to note that some companies were unaware of asbestos dangers while providing asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) at job sites, yet when they were informed, they immediately stopped producing it. This isn’t to say that they shouldn’t be held responsible, but in some cases, the settlement amount may be lower if it’s proven that companies and manufacturers who supplied asbestos to job sites stopped production once they were aware of its dangers.
On the other hand, other companies were well-aware of the dangers of using asbestos yet continued to do so because of the large profits it brought in. In these types of mesothelioma lawsuits, settlement amounts are typically much more substantial if the defendant is a company and/or companies that knowingly continued to use asbestos despite the warnings.
The Number of Companies Involved in the Lawsuit
Another area that may factor the settlement amount is the number of companies that are involved in the lawsuit. For example, it’s common for people to work at a job that used different products from various manufacturers that supplied asbestos to a business.
Each of these manufacturers may be responsible for contributing to the defendant’s asbestos-related illness. In turn, each of these companies may be liable for damages, meaning the settlement will more than likely be higher when compared to a case in which only one company is responsible.
As mentioned earlier, former NFL football player Merlin Olsen’s case involved at least 10 different companies. Another example includes plaintiffs Elmer L. and Martha Jo Cathey. In 1987, the coupled filed a lawsuit in Tennessee against 23 companies, including Johns Manville, Owens Corning Fiberglass, GAF Corportation, Celotex Corporation, and more.
Although they didn’t win against all of the companies named in their lawsuit, they were compensated for Johns Manville’s part in the contribution of Elmer Cathey developing mesothelioma. In some cases, such as this, not all companies named in a lawsuit will be found responsible. In others instances, they will, and in turn the compensation is generally much higher.
Where You Live
The way your case is handled greatly depends upon the state where you file. While some states make it relatively easy to file a mesothelioma lawsuit, other states are not so lenient and may require additional evidence as well as a shorter time to present your case. This in turn can also affect the settlement amount.
It’s always a good idea to have a comprehensive understanding of your state laws. Statute of limitations for mesothelioma lawsuits vary from one year to six years, and it’s imperative that you file your case within your state’s specific time frame. If you have questions regarding your state laws, your mesothelioma attorney will be able to help you understand what’s expected.
As mentioned earlier, the specifics of your case, including your age, how long you were exposed to asbestos, your medical diagnosis, and past medical issues will all factor into the settlement amount. These factors then will be measured out individually.
For example, while one person with a history of health issues prior to asbestos exposure may receive a certain amount, another person who has the same asbestos-related illness and worked at the same job site may receive a higher amount because their past medical records are cleaner.
Most mesothelioma lawyers have their own set of fees, usually a percentage of the amount that you win. Make sure to keep this in mind once you win your settlement. Whatever fees you agreed upon with your attorney will be taken out of your settlement amount once your case is finished and your payments start (most settlements are paid in installments).
In addition, in the event that your case doesn’t settle and it goes to trial, there may be additional fees. Again, this is something that you should discuss with your lawyer beforehand so that there aren’t any surprises down the road.
Most mesothelioma attorneys work on a contingency-fee basis, meaning they only get paid when you get your compensation. It’s always a good idea to choose an attorney or law firm that offers contingency-based fees. Attorneys who are unable to provide the option of no up-front payments may not have the financial resources needed to successfully work on your case.
The amount of wages a plaintiff has lost and the estimated amount of future lost wages will be factored into the settlement amount. Of course, the amounts of lost wages will be according to how long the plaintiff was out of work, the amount of pay the plaintiff should have made, and the estimated amount of pay that the plaintiff will lose because of the illness.
In some states, loss of future pay increase and loss of future promotions are factored into lost wages. An economics expert is generally needed to determine the pay increase you would have gotten had you not been injured by asbestos.
Medical bills are an important factor when determining the settlement amount. Doctor visits, surgery, chemotherapy, medication, rehabilitation, physical therapy, and a myriad of other medical expenses are considered.
Medical expenses in mesothelioma lawsuit will usually start from the time the patient became ill, including the trips to the physician’s office or medical centers beforehand. In other words, your medical expenses included in the settlement amount start when you first learned something may be wrong and you sought out medical help. Some people think that the only medical expenses that are included are the ones incurred after they file their lawsuit, which is false.
Legal Help with Your Settlement
Use our free Asbestos Attorney Locator Tool today to find a leading mesothelioma attorney in your area. Keep in mind that if you have mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer, or asbestosis, you may be eligible for considerable compensation. For additional assistance or questions, contact us at 800-793-4540.