The history of mesothelioma litigation dates back to the Industrial Revolution when asbestos use was in full force. Because mesothelioma has a latency period of up to 50 years, mesothelioma lawsuits have increased dramatically within the past 30 years. Below, we detail the history of mesothelioma litigation – from some of the earliest cases to asbestos litigation today
In 1965, a publication by the American Law Institute of The Restatement of the Law of Torts made it clear that anyone who sells or provides dangerous or defective products to a consumer is liable for the harm the product causes. Since the courts decided that asbestos manufacturers knew of the dangers of asbestos, this led to a substantial increase in the filing of tort litigation, which involves an injured victim seeking legal compensation from the individual or individuals who harmed them.
It was during this time that tort litigation became a popular substitute for both workers’ compensation systems and government-run trust funds. Workers’ compensation in particular was designed for instances such as broken arms and disabling conditions, not for occupational diseases. Also, many employers and their insurers would challenge their workers’ claims and avoid admitting asbestos was the cause of their harm. Because of this, the number of claims filed by individuals exposed to asbestos rose dramatically between the early 1980s and 2000s.
In 1990, a group of federal judges, called the the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, was formed. This group froze all pending asbestos cases in the federal courts and sent them to a single judge in Philadelphia. This caused a delay in mesothelioma litigation across the country and led to the filing of mesothelioma lawsuits in the state courts rather than federal courts.