Mesothelioma settlements are legal agreements that provide compensation to mesothelioma patients or to surviving family members without the need for a full trial. When faced with a lawsuit, an asbestos company or trust fund will often reach a settlement with the plaintiff to avoid the time and cost of bringing the case to court for a verdict.
Mesothelioma Lawsuit Settlement and Verdict Payouts by State
The amount of compensation won through asbestos lawsuits varies from case to case. Many patients or their estates across the U.S. have received settlements and jury awards worth millions of dollars.
The average asbestos claim payout can be anywhere between $1 million and $1.4 million for mesothelioma settlements. While the average trial verdict payout can be close to $2.4 million, according to the 2016 Mealey’s Litigation Report. Mesothelioma trust payouts remain significantly less than what claimants may be eligible to receive in court.
The timeframe for a mesothelioma settlement varies with some patients receiving a check in a few months to some waiting more than a year.
Exact settlement figures are usually kept private, and claimants often are bound by confidentiality agreements. However, some settlement amounts tend to become public from time to time.
- In 2005, U.S. Steel was ordered to pay $250 million to the wife of a former steel-worker who died of mesothelioma. U.S. Steel reached a post-verdict settlement for an undisclosed amount believed to be substantially less than the compensatory award.
- In 2011, a circuit court judge approved a $10 million settlement to Nancy Lopez. The Jackson County courthouse employee was exposed to asbestos during a renovation project done by U.S. Engineering Company. A few years after Lopez died of mesothelioma, two of her former co-workers filed a lawsuit against Jackson County and the engineering company, resulting in an $80 million settlement.
- The mass asbestos exposure from the vermiculite mines in Libby resulted in two major payouts. In 2011, a district court judge approved a $43 million settlement covering more than 1,300 miners and their estates. A second class-action lawsuit awarded a $25 million settlement to more than 1,000 people in January 2017. Future settlements are likely as victims continue to file legal actions.
- New York:
- In 2006, Alfred D’Ulisse, a retired police officer and former brake specialist, reached a $25 million settlement with Daimler-Chrysler. The company had exposed him and many others to asbestos in automobile brakes.
Notable Trial Verdicts by State
When plaintiffs and defendants don’t agree to a settlement, the case usually goes to trial. If jurors agree the defendants are liable, they will decide how much money the defendants should pay in damages.
- In November 2016, a Los Angeles Superior Court jury awarded Philip Depoian a record-setting $18 million verdict in a mesothelioma-talcum powder lawsuit. Depoian was exposed to asbestos-tainted talcum powder products used at the barber-shop where his father worked.
- A jury awarded former naval shipyard worker George Parker $6.5 million in March 2016. The jury determined John Crane Inc. was responsible for exposing Parker to asbestos, which led to his mesothelioma diagnosis. Parker worked with gasket materials containing asbestos at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard.
- New Jersey:
- In April 2018, damages awarded to Stephen Lanzo III and his wife totalled $117 million. A jury found Johnson & Johnson and Imerys Talc America liable for selling Lanzo asbestos-contaminated talcum powder products, which led to Lanzo’s mesothelioma diagnosis, from 1979 to 2003.
- New York:
- In one of the largest verdicts of its kind in U.S. history, a jury awarded $190 million to five Weitz & Luxenberg clients in July 2013. The jury found boiler companies Burnham and Cleaver-Brooks negligent and reckless, which caused the plaintiffs to develop mesothelioma. W&L made history again in 2017 when a jury awarded Marlena and Ed Robaey $75 million in the largest single asbestos verdict in New York.
Understanding Mesothelioma Settlements vs. Verdicts
Most mesothelioma lawsuits are settled out of court before reaching the courtroom. The average mesothelioma trial verdict award is much higher than the average mesothelioma settlement. But negotiating a settlement may allow patients or the estate to receive compensation sooner.
Settlement and verdict amounts depend on the strength of the case such as:
- Claimant’s diagnosis and medical history
- Number of companies sued
- Where the claim is filed
- Proof of the defendants’ negligence
- Amount of claimant’s medical bills lost income and other expenses
An experienced mesothelioma attorney can build your case and negotiate settlements on your behalf. They can help you decide whether to hold out and take a defendant to trial. In court, a judge or jury might award a verdict with significant compensatory and punitive damages.
A specialized lawyer can also help you understand the statutes of limitations for the state where you file your claim.
Should You Settle or Seek a Verdict?
While a trial verdict may result in a larger award, there is no guarantee a jury will side with you. Qualified attorneys know there are no sure bets in a trial. The amount you can negotiate in a settlement may be smaller than what you could win in a trial verdict, but the compensation will be guaranteed.
The decision to settle or go after a verdict is best made with the advice of an experienced mesothelioma attorney. These lawyers understand the nature of malignant mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.
The more evidence you gather to support your case, the easier it will be to agree to a reasonable settlement amount with a defendant company.
Reasons a Defendant May Agree to Settle
- Discovery of information that would likely lead to a favourable verdict for the plaintiff
- A compelling deposition that favours the plaintiff
- Lack of time to complete necessary research before a trial
- Sudden unavailability of a key witness or expert needed to win the case
- Mounting legal fees from a drawn-out lawsuit
Factors Affecting Settlement Amounts
When you file a mesothelioma claim, many factors affect the potential settlement amount a defendant may agree to.
Medical Expenses and Lost Wages
Most mesothelioma patients dealing with the hardships of cancer also experience financial difficulties as medical bills continue arriving. Because patients and their family members have to focus on mesothelioma treatment and caregiving, they may be unable to work, causing a loss of income at the same time.
Compensatory and Punitive Damages
When a jury issues a verdict in favour of the plaintiff, jurors consider compensatory damages — the actual economic losses of the plaintiff. Jurors also consider punitive damages, which serve to punish a defendant for, particularly bad behaviour. The financial punishment is meant to deter the defendant and other companies from engaging in dangerous behaviour again.
In cases where the manufacturer knowingly allowed asbestos products to harm people, the potential financial liability may be enormous. Some historic cases have warranted awards in the tens of millions of dollars. If a defendant has settled or lost cases in the past, they may want to settle a claim quickly without going through the trial process again.
Number of Companies in Lawsuit
Plaintiffs often file claims against multiple companies that manufactured asbestos-containing products. In lawsuits where multiple defendants are named, it’s common for some to settle early to avoid legal expenses, negative publicity or a prolonged proceeding.
Different states require varying amounts of evidence for proving liability, negligence and wrongdoing on the part of a defendant. Some states also cap the amount of damages that a jury can award in a trial.
Settlement Process & Common Scenarios
The settlement process starts with a mesothelioma attorney preparing to present a plaintiff’s case to a judge and jury. Settlement negotiations with defendants can take place before, during or even after a trial.
- Filing Claims and Receiving Responses: After you work with your lawyer to identify the potentially liable companies and file your claims, the defendants typically have 30 days to respond. Some defendants may offer a small settlement immediately, but most deny the claim.
- Discovery and Preparation for Trial: The phase leading up to the trial date is called discovery when lawyers on both sides collect evidence to build their cases. Defendants may be willing to negotiate a settlement at this stage to avoid going through with the trial.
- Trial and Appeal: If a trial starts going badly for a defendant, they may be willing to settle to avoid a damaging verdict. Even if a jury takes your side, it may be in your best interest to accept a settlement, so defendants do not file an appeal to prolong the legal process.
Your lawyer can advise you about your options and whether you should hold out for a better proposal.
“We’re prepared to take every one of our cases to trial. A very small percentage, though, ever get to a verdict,” said Dan Kraft, an attorney at Weitz & Luxenberg, which is the law firm is responsible for two record-setting asbestos verdicts in New York.
Common Questions About Mesothelioma Settlements
- How Long Does It Take to Get a Mesothelioma Settlement?
- The time it takes to get a mesothelioma settlement varies for each case. Some patients may receive settlement checks within a few months, while others may wait more than a year from the time their claim was filed.
Experienced mesothelioma attorneys work hard to expedite claims in order to obtain compensation for patients as quickly as possible.
You will likely receive your compensation in instalments rather than in one lump sum, especially if the settlement is large. During the settlement process, you should discuss with your attorney how you want your payments distributed.
- Are Mesothelioma Settlements Taxable Income?
- Whether mesothelioma settlement money is taxable depends on the type of damages awarded. In general, compensation for lost wages and emotional distress is taxable, but compensation to cover medical expenses is not taxable.
An experienced mesothelioma lawyer can explain how your settlement may be taxed. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 expanded the amount of settlement money that plaintiffs must pay taxes on.
- Who Is Awarded in a Wrongful Death Settlement?
- Compensation awarded in a wrongful death settlement may go to the deceased person’s estate. How settlement money is distributed to surviving family members depends on the unique circumstances of each case.
- How Much Do Legal Fees Cost?
- Most mesothelioma attorneys work on a contingency fee basis. This means your attorney will receive a percentage of any award or settlement, but you will owe nothing if you do not receive compensation for your injuries. You agree on the terms with your lawyer at the beginning of the case.
When determining the minimum acceptable amount of a settlement, be sure to account for the percentage your attorney will receive. The percentage may be different if you negotiate a settlement rather than prevail at trial.