One of the most frequently asked questions about mesothelioma lawsuits is “Will my case be part of a class action?” In order to better explain why the mesothelioma lawyers at Simmons Hanly Conroy always answer this question with a decisive NO, it makes sense to first define class action lawsuits.
A class action lawsuit is filed by a group of plaintiffs against the defendant liable for their common circumstances, injuries or damages. Once the class action is filed, a court must certify the class for the lawsuit to proceed. A judge is then tasked with selecting representative counsel for the plaintiffs – someone who will fairly represent the class as a whole. Finally, if a settlement amount is reached, the judge must approve the final settlement and make other decisions regarding deadlines to notify class members and more. In short, class actions can drag on for years.
Despite this, class action lawsuits against asbestos companies used to be quite common. In the late 1960s, as public awareness about the dangers of asbestos increased and doctors began diagnosing more people with asbestos-related diseases, hundreds of asbestos lawsuits were filed as part of class action lawsuits. These class action suits sought to obtain compensation for diseases ranging from asbestosis and pleural plaques to mesothelioma. People were very angry that asbestos manufacturers knew about the dangers of their product long before the public did, and employees, consumers, and families wanted justice for the companies’ wrongdoings. It wasn’t until the 1970s, that individual mesothelioma lawsuits started to take the place of asbestos class actions.
Why Simmons Hanly Conroy Believes Mesothelioma Patients Should File Individual Lawsuits
Simmons Hanly Conroy does not file asbestos-related class action lawsuits because we believe mesothelioma patients find better success when working with an experienced lawyer who solely focuses on their individual case. There are four reasons why we avoid filing class action lawsuits for our asbestos clients. They include looking at the unique circumstances, varying asbestos exposures, time of diagnosis and individual settlement amounts.
First, everyone who has been diagnosed with mesothelioma has a unique story. Many served in the military and suffered exposure there. Others were exposed throughout the course of their career working in factories or steel mills. Some clients fixed cars or houses where asbestos was found. There are also people who suffer bystander, or second-hand, exposure. Maybe they worked in an office, but craftsman used asbestos products nearby or a father brought asbestos dust home to be laundered by a wife who later became sick. How a person was exposed is a factor that will impact their mesothelioma case.
Varying Asbestos Exposures
Second, many of our clients suffered multiple exposures. I remember one case where a man repaired asbestos-containing turbines in factories. He would travel to different factories where the turbines needed repair, work until the job was done and then move on to the next factory. Each factory represented a new exposure and a new defendant.
Class actions most often only address one type of exposure or one defendant. As a result, class actions rarely award mesothelioma victims compensation for all of their exposures.
Time of Diagnosis
Another factor, especially critical for mesothelioma patients, is class actions take time. There are extra steps in the class action legal process compared to an individual lawsuit. Those include certifying the class, appointing representative counsel, notifying class members, final settlement approval and more. There are examples of class actions that have taken decades to resolve because it got snagged along the legal process. Mesothelioma patients don’t have years.
Individual Settlement Amounts
Finally, in general, class action compensation amounts are distributed equally to all class members. In an individual mesothelioma case, there are several factors considered when reaching a verdict or settlement amount including, but not limited to the following:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Where, when, how and how long you were exposed to asbestos
- Emotional effects on you and your family
If you’re interested in learning more about filing an individual lawsuit, visit our Mesothelioma Lawsuits page where we answer questions such as “Why should I file a mesothelioma lawsuit?” and “How do mesothelioma lawsuits work?”