The changing face of asbestos litigation
Recently, the Wall Street Journal profiled the asbestos case filed by Bill McQueen, a San Antonio, Texas physician who was diagnosed with mesothelioma. Dr. McQueen’s case was not the first mesothelioma case, and it will not be the last. However, the Wall Street Journal used his case to show that the facts of a mesothelioma case filed today are different from the facts involved in cases filed even a decade ago. Dr. McQueen claimed asbestos exposure when he worked at a greenhouse cleaning the flue of the boiler. He also served in the military and was present for some repair work at his family’s Ohio farm. These alleged exposures to asbestos do not fit the outline of the traditional mesothelioma case filed in the past, which included facts based on shipyard work, insulation exposure, and work in industrial settings.
The article cited statistics that these “non-traditional” exposures were seen in only 3% of cases filed between 1991 and 2000, but from 2006-2010, such exposures are seen in 49% of the mesothelioma cases filed. These numbers may explain why there has been a 20% increase in mesothelioma cases filed when compared to the filings five years ago, at a time when mesothelioma diagnoses are decreasing and when the claimants with more traditional asbestos exposure have already filed suit and/or passed away due to advanced age. Thus, even though there are fewer mesothelioma diagnoses made per year, there appears to be a greater proportion of diagnosed persons filing lawsuits due than in the past, even if the diagnosed person lacks a work history that includes conventional asbestos exposure.
Investigating new exposures has become the task of law firms who represent plaintiffs in asbestos litigation. One firm stated in a press release that the claimant would not need to remember all the details of exposure in order to file a lawsuit; rather, if only a few details were recalled, the firm would work to “fill in the gaps with appropriate research.” As these firms investigate and bring suits against companies who have no previous experience with this litigation, the companies must then turn to law firms who are familiar with the medical and legal claims that are involved in asbestos litigation, in order to obtain an effective defense.
For the full article, see "For One Asbestos Victim, Justice Is a Moving Target," by Dionne Searcy, Wall Street Journal, Monday June 17, 2013Feb 02, 2015