What Is Liability in an Asbestos Case?
The goal of an asbestos case is to establish the liability of parties responsible for exposing people to asbestos. If liable, these parties may owe compensation to mesothelioma victims and their families. Mesothelioma compensation can help pay for medical bills, travel expenses and other costs.
Liability is a type of obligation created by the law to compensate injured parties. It may result when a company’s actions breach a legal duty owed to their workers or customers. Liable companies have a legal obligation to compensate affected parties if their breach of duty resulted in injury.
Asbestos companies and other parties may be liable for exposing people to asbestos. Different types of exposure they may be held liable for include:
- Occupational exposure: This occurs when workers get exposed to asbestos at a jobsite or through on-the-job tasks. Most mesothelioma cases result from occupational asbestos exposure.
- Secondary exposure: Secondary asbestos exposure occurs through contact with people who work with asbestos or asbestos-containing materials.
- Hazardous product exposure: This occurs through exposure to asbestos products. The exposure may be occupational or secondary. It may also result from acquiring asbestos products through a seller.
A mesothelioma liability case is filed against parties believed to be liable for an individual’s diagnosis. Asbestos litigation will determine whether the defendant breached a duty to the plaintiff. If they did, they owe an obligation to compensate them. In other words, they are liable.
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02. Who Is Liable?
Who Is Liable in Asbestos Cases?
It is not uncommon for many parties to be liable for a victim’s asbestos-related illness. For example, victims may have been exposed to asbestos at different jobsites. Each company responsible for a victim’s exposure at these sites can be named as a defendant in a victim’s lawsuit.
Certain types of parties are more often defendants in mesothelioma lawsuits than others. This is because use of asbestos was common in many industries. Asbestos is also still found in certain materials and products such as insulation, boilers and adhesives.
Common defendants in mesothelioma liability cases include:
- Asbestos-processing companies
- Asbestos product manufacturers
- Asbestos shippers
- Employers who used asbestos for things such as insulation and drywall
- Mining companies
- Owners of asbestos-contaminated properties
- Raw asbestos manufacturers
When more than one defendant is found liable in an asbestos case, a judge or jury may apportion liability. State laws set the rules for how apportionment works. Apportionment does not affect the total amount of compensation owed to a plaintiff.
Apportionment is the spreading of liability among defendants. Each defendant owes damages in proportion to their liability.
Who Is Liable When an Asbestos Company Is Acquired by Another Company?
Sometimes the company responsible for a person’s asbestos exposure is acquired by or merges with another company. It is possible that the buyer, also called a “successor company,” may still be liable for injuries caused by the company they have acquired.
A successor company buys or merges with a company with the goal of continuing the previous company’s business. They may change the previous company’s business to some degree or keep it the same.
The question for the acquired company’s victim is whether successor liability exists. Successor liability allows plaintiffs to seek compensation from successor companies.
In general, a buyer does not automatically assume the liabilities of the company it is buying. But several exceptions exist. These exceptions may allow people with mesothelioma to receive compensation from a successor company.
Whether an exception applies is specific to the facts of the buyer’s purchase of an asbestos company. An experienced mesothelioma lawyer can help build a case for successor liability.
Who Is Liable When an Asbestos Company Goes Bankrupt?
Sometimes asbestos companies do not have enough money and assets to compensate everyone who they have injured. When this happens, they may declare bankruptcy. Asbestos victims may still be eligible for compensation from bankrupt companies.
Bankruptcy proceedings may reduce or eliminate certain liabilities. Many bankrupt asbestos companies have established asbestos trust funds. These funds exist to provide compensation for injuries caused by the bankrupt company. Filing an asbestos trust claim is not technically the same as suing for liability, but both actions may result in compensation. However, an asbestos trust claim is unlikely to pay as much as a company found liable in court.
A mesothelioma victim may still be able to sue a bankrupt asbestos company. A lawsuit against a bankrupt company, however, will have additional procedural requirements. An experienced lawyer can help victims fulfill these requirements.
Who Is Liable When an Asbestos Company No Longer Exists?
It is sometimes possible to file a lawsuit against a company that has been dissolved. Usually, parties must begin legal action within a window of time after the dissolution occurred. It is possible that a dissolved corporation’s assets have already been sold off. This means they are unable to compensate any injured party.
A mesothelioma lawyer can help victims explore the viability of filing a lawsuit against an asbestos company that no longer exists. Victims may also have other options for compensation.
03. Determining Liability
How Is Asbestos Liability Determined?
To win a lawsuit, a plaintiff must present a legal theory for why a defendant is liable. A lawyer will determine which theory is appropriate for a case based on the underlying facts. The legal theory should explain why the defendant owed a duty to the plaintiff. It should also explain how the defendant’s breach of their duty resulted in an injury to the plaintiff.
Several legal theories exist for asbestos liability. The most common are negligence, strict liability and breach of warranty.
Negligence is a failure to act with a level of care that a reasonable person would have acted with in the same situation. Victims may be able to file a mesothelioma lawsuit under the theory of negligence liability.
What is the idea behind negligence liability? Parties should be accountable for foreseeable harms they could avoid by acting with reasonable care.
There are four elements to a negligence liability case. Each element must be proven to succeed at trial.
- Duty: The defendant owes the plaintiff a duty of care to prevent any reasonably foreseeable injuries caused by their actions.
- Breach of duty: The defendant violated their duty to the plaintiff.
- Causation: The defendant’s breach of duty caused the plaintiff’s injury.
- Damages: The plaintiff’s injury resulted in economic or emotional losses for which the defendant owes compensation.
- Duty: A reasonable asbestos abatement company would protect employees from asbestos. They owe a duty of care to prevent exposure.
- Breach of duty: The company failed to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to their employees.
- Causation: The lack of PPE caused an employee to be exposed to asbestos.
- Damages: The employee developed mesothelioma as a result of their exposure. Lost wages and ongoing medical costs cause the employee to suffer economically.
A judge or jury will determine whether a plaintiff has proven each element of a negligence claim. They will base their decision on evidence presented to them by an attorney.
An experienced mesothelioma attorney will help a plaintiff build their negligence case. They will gather evidence to prove each element and present them to a judge or jury if the case goes to trial.
Strict liability is a legal theory that imposes liability for injuries even if a party did not act negligently. Strict liability is common in cases involving inherently dangerous products. For example, asbestos-containing products may be considered inherently dangerous. This type of liability is also called strict product liability. Victims may be able to file a mesothelioma lawsuit under the theory of strict liability.
What is the idea behind strict liability? With some products, dangers may still exist even if they are used with reasonable care. Sellers of such products should be accountable for the harm these products cause.
There are four elements to a strict liability case. The elements of a strict liability case are similar to a negligence case. The main difference is that it does not matter if the defendant acted negligently or not. Each element must be proven to succeed at trial.
- Strict duty: The defendant owes the plaintiff a strict duty to design, manufacture or sell safe products.
- Breach of duty: The defendant violated their strict duty by selling an inherently dangerous product.
- Causation: The product resulted in plaintiff’s injury in the course of its intended use.
- Damages: The plaintiff’s injury resulted in economic or emotional losses to the plaintiff.
- Strict duty: An asbestos product manufacturer owes a strict duty to sell products that will not expose people to asbestos.
- Breach of duty: The manufacturer breached their duty by selling asbestos-containing car components.
- Causation: A mechanic is exposed to asbestos fibers during routine maintenance of the car components.
- Damages: The mechanic developed mesothelioma as a result of their exposure. Lost wages and medical costs cause the employee to suffer economic losses.
A judge or jury will determine whether a plaintiff has proven each element of strict liability. An experienced attorney will help a plaintiff build their case by gathering evidence to prove each element. They will then present the evidence if the case goes to trial.
Breach of Warranty
Breach of warranty refers to a violation of an expressed or implied guarantee about a product. A victim may be able to file a mesothelioma lawsuit if a seller of asbestos products violates a guarantee about the safety of their product.
What is the idea behind breach of warranty? A seller makes implicit guarantees about a product when they sell them on the market. For example, selling a product implicitly implies it is safe for the ordinary purposes for which it is used. Sellers whose products violate implied warranties should be accountable for the harm their products cause.
There are two elements to a strict liability case. Each element must be proven to succeed at trial.
- Implied guarantee: A supplier or seller makes an expressed or implied guarantee about a product.
- Guarantee is false: The guarantee turns out to be false.
- Implied guarantee: A company sells talcum powder on the market, thus implying the product is safe for consumers.
- Guarantee is false: The talcum powder is contaminated with asbestos, exposing the consumer.
A judge or jury will determine whether a plaintiff has proven each element of a breach of warranty. An experienced attorney will help a plaintiff build their case by gathering evidence to prove each element. They will present the evidence if the case goes to trial.
04. Asbestos Exposure & Liability
Can I Receive Compensation for Asbestos Exposure?
In general, a person cannot sue for asbestos exposure unless it causes an injury. If exposure results in mesothelioma, a person may claim compensation for asbestos exposure. An attorney can help determine eligibility to file a lawsuit as well as potential case value.
Patients and their loved ones may be eligible to receive compensation from liable parties. A mesothelioma victim may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit to seek compensation from parties responsible for their asbestos exposure. A victim may also be able to receive compensation from other types of asbestos claims such as veterans’ benefits claims and workers’ compensation.
A victim’s loved ones may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit to receive compensation if the victim dies of mesothelioma. They may also be able to receive compensation from other types of asbestos claims. Who may file a lawsuit or other asbestos-related claims on behalf of a victim depends on state law. People eligible to file a mesothelioma claim after the death of a victim may include:
- A spouse or life partner
- Financial dependents
- Parents or grandparents
An experienced asbestos attorney can help victims and their loved ones determine what compensation might be owed to them for asbestos-related injuries.
Steps for People Who Know They Were Exposed to Asbestos
Asbestos exposure alone is usually not enough to file a lawsuit. But any exposure to asbestos may result in an asbestos-related disease, such as mesothelioma or asbestosis. Anyone who knows or suspects they were exposed to asbestos should take steps to prepare for possible future legal needs. An accurate record of a person’s exposure history can help establish liability down the line.
Individuals should talk to their doctor about known or suspected asbestos exposure. Mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses have long latency periods. A doctor can watch for signs of an asbestos-related illness. A mesothelioma doctor will create a record of any changes in a person’s health. This record may be helpful in establishing negligence and other liabilities.
Documenting work-history details may also help establish liability if a person develops mesothelioma. Individuals should make a record of jobsites and actions that may have resulted in asbestos exposure. An individual may also want to list co-workers who may be able to serve as witnesses in a deposition or at trial.
A person who develops mesothelioma can provide these records to a mesothelioma lawyer. The lawyer can use these documents to help prove that negligent parties are liable to the plaintiff or their loved ones.
05. Compensation for Liability
How Can I Receive Compensation From Liable Parties?
Mesothelioma victims and their loved ones may receive compensation in different ways. It is not always necessary to establish liability to receive compensation. However, filing a lawsuit to establish liability may result in higher compensation amounts than other claims.
An asbestos lawyer will help victims and their loved ones determine which types of compensation they may be eligible for.
Asbestos Lawsuit Verdict
Asbestos litigation may result in a verdict at trial. An asbestos lawsuit verdict will establish whether the defendant is liable for the plaintiff’s asbestos-related disease. The average mesothelioma verdict results in $2.4 million in compensation.
A mesothelioma victim may file a personal injury lawsuit after their diagnosis. A judge or jury will reach a verdict if the case goes to trial. The verdict will determine if a defendant is liable and how much compensation is owed to the plaintiff. A victim’s loved ones may file a wrongful death lawsuit if the victim passes away from mesothelioma. If a judge or jury finds the defendant liable, the victim’s loved ones will receive compensation.
A mesothelioma settlement is an agreement between parties to dismiss the lawsuit before or during trial. A settlement may provide much needed compensation for victims and their loved ones. The average settlement ranges from $1 million to $1.4 million.
Settlements in general do not result in a determination of liability. Settlement agreements often contain a “non-admission of liability” clause. This clause will say that the defendant’s payment of compensation is not an admission that they are liable for the plaintiff’s injuries.
There are several reasons why an injured party may decide to settle. A plaintiff may prefer a private settlement agreement over a public trial. A plaintiff may not want to risk a defendant being found not liable at trial. An experienced attorney will provide consultation during any settlement process.
Asbestos Bankruptcy Trust Claim
Many asbestos companies have filed for bankruptcy due to a high number of asbestos cases. These companies have set up asbestos trust funds to pay out all present and future asbestos claims. There are more than 60 active trust funds that have set aside more than $30 billion to pay claimants.
Bankruptcy filings help shield companies from liabilities due to an inability to pay them. A payout from an asbestos trust fund is not technically an admission of liability. Payouts are often lower than those for verdicts and settlements. This is because the trust funds were established due to an inability to pay liabilities.
Asbestos use in the military was widespread during the twentieth century. It continues to be a risk for military personnel. Veterans who developed an asbestos-related disease may be eligible for compensation.
Any compensation that claimants receive from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is considered a benefit and not an admission of liability.
Workers’ Compensation Claim
Most states require businesses with employees to have workers’ compensation liability insurance. It is a type of liability insurance that compensates workers for injuries that occurred on the job. A mesothelioma diagnosis due to asbestos exposure is considered an injury that may be covered by workers’ compensation.
The amount of compensation paid to a claimant will depend on the company’s specific insurance coverage policy. A workers’ compensation payout may or may not involve an admission of a company’s liability. A mesothelioma attorney will help determine whether a claimant ought to pursue an admission of liability from an insurance company.
An asbestos lawyer can help mesothelioma victims decide the best course of action for their cases. They can help determine if it would be beneficial to try to hold responsible parties liable. Experienced mesothelioma law firms can help throughout the entire legal process. Lawyers at these firms can help gather evidence, negotiate compensation and argue a case for liability.