The Need to Improve Mesothelioma Litigation

Victims of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses have a right to a fair and just trial against the companies that knowingly exposed them to asbestos. Most victims, however, are subjected to drawn-out proceedings, and are never able to obtain justice before their illnesses overtake them. Mesothelioma lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm highlight the story of one man who fought for justice until his last day.

John Johnson was a Marine veteran, and died of mesothelioma at 69 years old, on January 23, 2012. Asbestos litigation comprises the largest amount of mass tort litigation in the United States, although the justice system for these victims is excruciatingly unjust. Mesothelioma is a particularly serious cancer, and most patients do not survive longer than one year after they are diagnosed. This gives them an extraordinarily short amount of time to find an apt attorney, file a lawsuit, and go through court proceedings. One year is not enough time for anyone, nonetheless a person dying from cancer, to file and win such a major court case.

Johnson worked as a plumber, carpenter, and auto mechanic for thirty years. All three occupations are now known to be the most at-risk for asbestos exposure, as the mineral is used predominantly in friction products, piping, and fire-proof insulation. He was an avid outdoorsman, and one day, after a cycling trip, he found he was unable to catch his breath. He went to see a physician at the Long Beach Veteran’s Affair hospital, and underwent surgery to determine his ailments. The physicians took one look at his lungs, which were wracked with asbestos poisoning, and told him he had less than a year to live.

Despite this prognosis, Johnson and his family sought justice and hired an attorney. The lawyer doubted Johnson would survive long enough to see a court date, and requested an expedited trial. The trial was set for March 2012. California law allows asbestos defendants – in this case more than 40 companies, including Ford and General Motors – 20 hours in deposition to question plaintiffs. In comparison with federal asbestos laws and other state regulations, this amount of time is exceedingly high. In Texas, for example, defendants are allowed six hours per side, and federally, the hours are set at seven.

Johnson’s doctor even submitted an affidavit stating that depositions should last no longer than 12 hours over a few weeks, because of his deteriorating health. Despite this, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge allowed the defendants to question him for 25 hours, more than double what the doctor stated.

The dying man delayed going to the hospital several times in order to appear at the depositions. In the last questioning session in January 2012, Johnson’s face was contorted in pain and he could barely speak through gasps for air as more than a dozen defendant attorneys asked him redundant questions. Less than 40 minutes later, he collapsed, was brought to Hoag Memorial Hospital, and passed away that day.

With Johnson’s death, his family lost the right to 70% of the potential recovery. His family, lawyer and doctors all contend that the defense attorneys purposefully and maliciously drew out the depositions to save their clients money. Defense attorneys maintain that they had full right to the lengthy depositions.

Asbestos litigation began in the 1970s, when it was publicly revealed that asbestos manufacturers were well aware, since the 1930s, that asbestos was directly associated with serious and fatal illnesses, such as lung cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma. Today, asbestos-related litigation is subjected to long delays, regular appeals and settlement issues, and oppressive trials. All this, on top of the fact that most mesothelioma patients have only a few months left to live – months that should not be spent in court rooms, but with family. With the help of an experienced asbestos attorney, however, the process can be made much simpler.

Mesothelioma lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm recognize these troubling issues, and advocate for asbestos victims’ rights every day. If you or someone you love was exposed to asbestos and developed a related disease, you have important legal rights. With the help of a skilled attorney, you may be able to receive just compensation for you pain, suffering, and damages.

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