Because of the long latency period (the period of time from exposure to manifestation of symptoms) involved in mesothelioma cases – 20 to 50 years – mesothelioma cases present unique challenges. For example, because it is necessary to properly identify the asbestos-containing products the client was exposed to, it is necessary to develop and maintain an ever-expanding library of product identification materials.
The product identification library consists of labels, photographs of asbestos products, advertising materials and the like from products used in specific industrial settings 50 or more years ago. Product identification meetings are lengthy and are the heart of a mesothelioma case.
In addition, developments in case law have placed greater emphasis on identifying former co-workers who can both identify the products at issue as well as provide testimony regarding durations and frequency of exposure as well as physical proximity to the product and any information regarding ventilation and personal protective breathing masks.
Further, many of the long-thought-of primary defendants in asbestos litigation are in bankruptcy and many claimants are left with no further recourse than to seek payment through a bankruptcy trust. As a result, development of secondary and tertiary defendants has become more important and premises liability claims are often included in current mesothelioma lawsuits. Indeed, many of the current viable mesothelioma claims proceed against little known companies responsible for manufacturing and selling asbestos gaskets, packing materials, industrial insulation used in boilers, power plants, ship yards, pumps and air compressors.
Finally, although there is a long latency period, mesothelioma cases are typically associated with a short duration of illness resulting in death. The latency period from time of exposure to time of diagnosis is 20 to 50 years; however, from diagnosis to death is typically 12 to 18 months. During this very short period of time while the client is still living, it is vitally important to secure product identification, file the lawsuit and make the client available for deposition to memorialize the exposure testimony. Additionally, recent studies pointing to carbon fiber nanotubes as potentially mimicking asbestos fibers in causing mesothelioma are a double-edged sword: on the one hand they could herald in the next wave of defendants responsible for further mesothelioma deaths, and on the other hand they may provide asbestos defense experts with fodder to argue that nanotubes are to blame rather than asbestos products for causing mesothelioma.
Because of the long history of asbestos use in the United States and elsewhere, projections indicate that asbestos litigation is likely to continue into the foreseeable future. Further, because asbestos continues to appear in the most unlikely consumer products – in late 2007 the CPSC announced that a version of the CSI Crime Scene Investigation kit for children included a fingerprint powder consisting largely of asbestos dust – exposure to asbestos continues today, albeit at a lower rate than prior to the mid-1970’s when the establishment of OSHA significantly reduced industrial asbestos exposure. Finally, carbon fiber nanotubes represent an as yet unknown risk of mesothelioma by mimicking the carcinogenic effects of asbestos fibers. In short, mesothelioma litigation will continue to change and evolve as old defendants seek bankruptcy protection, new defendants are identified and technology advances. As a result, it is critically important to associate a law firm with resources and experience to tackle these difficult and challenging cases. Mike Andrews is handling mesothelioma cases for our firm and has several cases set for trial in the coming months. If you would like more information on this subject, you can contact Mike at 800-898-2034 or by email at Michael.Andrews@beasleyallen.com.
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