What Is a Mesothelioma Class Action Lawsuit?
A mesothelioma class action lawsuit is a type of legal action that occurs when one person (or a small group of people) brings a lawsuit against asbestos companies on behalf of a larger group.
Before the late 1990s, legal experts believed that class action lawsuits could compensate mesothelioma patients fairly.
They later learned that class action lawsuits are not the best way to obtain compensation for mesothelioma victims because class members had not been exposed to asbestos in the same way or suffered the same injuries.
Further, class action lawsuits are unlikely to award mesothelioma victims with enough financial compensation to cover a diagnosis of mesothelioma.
As a result, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in 1997 that asbestos cases could no longer be heard as class action lawsuits at the federal level.
- Today, mesothelioma class action lawsuits are seldom filed. Asbestos victims seeking legal action typically file an individual mesothelioma personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.
- Mesothelioma class action lawsuits can only be filed with U.S. state courts.
- One industry group proposed paying current and future asbestos victims $60,000 in 1994. This figure — which translates to about $121,000 in 2023 when adjusted for inflation — shows how class actions are unlikely to provide mesothelioma victims with sufficient compensation.
- Mesothelioma class action lawsuit settlements pay the same amount of money to every class member. While this helps ensure fairness, mesothelioma victims may be able to receive more compensation through other types of legal action.
Wondering if you’re eligible to file an individual mesothelioma claim? Connect with our featured law firm for a free case evaluation today.
Filing a Mesothelioma Class Action Lawsuit
Class action lawsuits require at least 35 or more people affected by the same injury or illness. In a mesothelioma class action lawsuit, one victim or a small group of victims will be named as plaintiffs to represent the entire group or class.
The manufacturers of asbestos-containing products named in the lawsuit are known as the defendants.
Courts will designate a lawsuit as a class action if it meets the four prerequisites outlined in Rule 23(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
These 4 requirements are:
- Some so many claimants hearing individual cases is impractical for the courts.
- The legal issues in question are similar for each class member named in the case.
- The claims made by the class representative accurately represent the claims of the other class members.
- The class representative will properly represent the interests of all class members.
Mesothelioma cases rarely qualify for class action lawsuits today.
Instead, asbestos victims should reach out to a mesothelioma lawyer for help in determining the best way to pursue compensation. A lawyer who handles mesothelioma cases can help victims file a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit or seek compensation through an asbestos trust fund or some other source.
Do you qualify to access asbestos trust fund money? Find out today.
Why Were Asbestos Class Action Lawsuits Filed?
Before 1997, class action lawsuits were viewed as an easy way for victims of asbestos exposure to receive compensation from negligent asbestos manufacturers. Lawyers who handled mesothelioma class action lawsuits could also earn large commissions through post-victory fees.
Benefits of a Class Action Lawsuit for Mesothelioma
Class action lawsuits allowed victims with mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases to join a larger lawsuit instead of filing one on their own.
Benefits of a class action lawsuit include:
- Consistency: Once an outcome is determined, everyone in the class receives the same amount of money.
- Consolidation: The court system can handle thousands of mesothelioma claims under one lawsuit. This was an important benefit because the number of people filing asbestos-related lawsuits jumped from 21,000 in early 1982 to more than 600,000 by 2000. These lawsuits flooded U.S. state and federal courts.
- Convenience: Since one person (or a small group) represents the larger class, individual lawsuits do not have to be filed, built, and tried in court.
Despite these benefits, there were disadvantages for mesothelioma victims.
Drawbacks of a class action lawsuit include:
- Lack of personalized representation: Each case of asbestos exposure and mesothelioma is vastly different. A class action lawsuit cannot represent all victims’ interests in a fair way.
- Length of time to resolve: It may take several years for victims to be compensated through a class action lawsuit. In many cases, personal injury lawsuits start awarding compensation within a year.
- Less money awarded: Those who participate in a mesothelioma class action lawsuit may not get as much compensation as they would if they had filed personal injury claims or a wrongful death lawsuit.
Because of these disadvantages, mesothelioma class action lawsuits are almost nonexistent today.
History of Mesothelioma Class Action Lawsuits
Class action lawsuits played an important role in the history of asbestos litigation.
Mesothelioma class action timeline:
- 1933: Scientists first discovered cases of lung cancer and pleural cancer in autopsies of workers with asbestosis, a non-cancerous disease caused by asbestos exposure.
- 1973: Judges in the landmark case of Borel v. Fibreboard Paper Products Corp. ruled that asbestos manufacturers are liable to workers injured due to asbestos exposure connected to their products. A 57-year-old insulation worker filed the case with asbestosis and mesothelioma. This case opened the door for thousands of other asbestos lawsuits.
“The success of the Borel case inspired a large number of lawsuits and facilitated controlling hazardous materials in the workplace through product liability actions. Subsequently, hundreds of thousands of asbestos victims — mostly workers, filed lawsuits in courts across the country.”
– American Museum of Tort Law
- 1991: More than 26,000 asbestos claims pending in federal court were consolidated by a panel of judges and sent to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The high number of claims proved impossible to handle, and most cases lay dormant.
- 1993: The Center for Claims Resolution (CCR), representing 20 manufacturers of asbestos-containing products, tried establishing a class action settlement deal that awarded asbestos victims based on their diagnosis. As part of the deal, anyone who could develop an asbestos-related disease connected to the companies’ products in the future was automatically bound to the terms unless they opted out.
- 1994: The U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Georgine v. Amchem Products confirmed that mesothelioma cases did not conform to the class action criteria outlined by FRCP Rule 23. The cases could not reach a global settlement because the individual facts related to each class member were too unique. At issue were as many as 2 million asbestos claims.
- 1997: The U.S. Supreme Court rejected the CCR’s proposed deal in Amchem Products Inc. v. Windsor. The high court ruled that the claimants had too many varied interests to be properly represented through a class action lawsuit for mesothelioma.
Since the Supreme Court’s 1997 ruling, class action mesothelioma lawsuits are no longer heard in federal courts.
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Status of Mesothelioma Class Action Lawsuits Today
Mesothelioma class action lawsuits are almost never heard by courts today. Personal injury and wrongful death mesothelioma lawsuits are much more common.
Can You Still File a Class Action Lawsuit?
While it may be technically possible to file a mesothelioma lawsuit class action in a state court, it is highly unlikely that you will actually be able to do so. And even if you can file a class action lawsuit, it is unlikely to be in your best interest.
State-Level Mesothelioma Class Action Lawsuits
In rare cases, some asbestos class action lawsuits have been filed at the state level.
For example, a class action asbestos lawsuit filed in Missouri settled for $80 million in 2016.
This lawsuit sought to create a fund to cover medical expenses for people exposed to asbestos while they worked in a courthouse that was being renovated. The renovations allegedly disturbed dangerous asbestos fibers. Two plaintiffs represented a class of up to 7,500 possible victims.
Other Legal Options for Mesothelioma Victims
Since a class action lawsuit for mesothelioma is usually not a viable option, asbestos victims are encouraged to explore other legal options.
Individual Mesothelioma Lawsuits
Most mesothelioma cases are filed as individual personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits.
An experienced lawyer can help victims pinpoint when, how, and where they were exposed to asbestos. The lawyer can then file a mesothelioma lawsuit against all potentially liable asbestos product manufacturers.
The asbestos victim can potentially receive more money than through a class action lawsuit.
For example, the CCR proposed paying current and future asbestos victims $60,000 at most in 1994. This comes out to about $121,000 in 2023 when adjusted for inflation.
In contrast, according to recent industry reports, individual personal injury lawsuits award an average of $1-1.4 million through mesothelioma settlements and between $5 million and $11.4 million through a trial verdict.
Asbestos Trust Funds
When a manufacturer files for bankruptcy, all legal action against them stops. Manufacturers of asbestos-containing products that went bankrupt to avoid mesothelioma lawsuits were forced to establish asbestos trust funds to compensate asbestos victims.
An estimated $30 billion is currently available in asbestos trust funds for present and future victims of asbestos exposure.
Asbestos trust funds have set values for different types of asbestos-related diseases. A mesothelioma diagnosis awards the most money in almost every case. Mesothelioma victims might access a portion of this money if they handled asbestos-containing products made by manufacturers that established these trusts.
Experienced mesothelioma lawyers can help victims determine which asbestos trust funds they may qualify for and take the legal steps needed to secure this compensation.
Looking for a mesothelioma lawyer to help you access asbestos trust fund money and other forms of financial compensation? Our list of questions can help you select an attorney who’s right for you and your family.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) also awards compensation to veterans with mesothelioma.
Veterans can apply for VA benefits to access medical care and ensure financial security for their loved ones.
VA benefits can cover:
- At-home care and nursing
- Burial and memorial services
- Disability care
- Medical treatment
- Mobility and other medical equipment
- Pension plans for survivors
- Therapy and mental health counseling
Veterans can apply for VA benefits in addition to filing a lawsuit or an asbestos trust fund claim. A mesothelioma lawyer can help guide veterans in both areas.
Download our Free Veterans Compensation Guide to learn more.
Explore Your Options for Mesothelioma Compensation
While mesothelioma class action lawsuits are rarely filed today, many other legal options are available to help victims of asbestos exposure seek justice.
Through an individual mesothelioma lawsuit, an asbestos trust fund claim, and/or a VA benefits claim, you may be able to receive compensation and hold negligent manufacturers accountable.
Schedule a free case review today to learn more about your legal options.
Mesothelioma Class Action Lawsuit FAQs
How much is a typical mesothelioma settlement?
Mesothelioma settlements award about $1 million on average, and many victims start to receive compensation in less than a year.
However, it’s important to note that these settlements almost always come from personal injury or wrongful death suits and not mesothelioma class action lawsuits.
Are mesothelioma cases a class action?
Mesothelioma cases are almost never filed as class actions.
In 1997, the U.S. Supreme Court barred mesothelioma cases from being tried as class action lawsuits in federal court.
While it is possible to file a mesothelioma class action lawsuit in a state court in 2023, it is unlikely that the judge presiding over the case would let it proceed.
Mesothelioma patients would do better to file a personal injury lawsuit than a class action lawsuit or pursue other legal remedies with the help of a mesothelioma law firm.
One of the reasons that lawyers almost never pursue mesothelioma class actions is because class members are likely to obtain less compensation than through a mesothelioma personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.
Does everyone with mesothelioma get a settlement?
No, everyone with mesothelioma does not get a settlement from a class action or any other type of asbestos claim.
However, anyone who has been diagnosed with mesothelioma is likely eligible for some type of mesothelioma compensation.
For example, mesothelioma patients may qualify for compensation from settlements, asbestos trust funds, or veterans benefits.
Contact our caring and knowledgeable Patient Advocates at (866) 608-8933 to learn more about your legal options.