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Asbestos Class Action Lawsuits

Class action lawsuits are no longer relevant in asbestos litigation. Lawyers do not file claims as class actions any longer and instead process them as individual mesothelioma lawsuits.

Troy Walton

Reviewed By

Troy E. Walton

Personal Injury Attorney

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Important Facts About Mesothelioma Class Action Lawsuits

  • Mesothelioma class action lawsuits are not a legal action victims can pursue.
  • Class action lawsuits for mesothelioma were popular during the 20th century, but the Supreme Court shut down future asbestos class actions in 1997.
  • Lawyers now file individual mesothelioma lawsuits on behalf of each victim, such as wrongful death or personal injury.

What Is a Class Action Lawsuit?

A class action lawsuit is a joint claim filed by one plaintiff on behalf of numerous people with the same or similar injuries or diseases. The connected victims file a claim against the same defendant or defendants. The plaintiffs are represented throughout the legal process by one or multiple people from the group. Therefore, the court does not hear each plaintiff’s case but rather one case representing all the victims.

Class action suits are an attempt to streamline the judicial process in order to save time and money. Courts must determine that there are enough similarities between the victims’ cases and separate lawsuits would be inconsequential.

Class action mesothelioma lawsuits were common during the 20th century. Mesothelioma cancer is a rare disease caused by asbestos exposure. It primarily affected men who worked in specific trades, such as construction, insulation, and military service aboard Navy ships.

The dangers of asbestos were made public late in the 20th century, but many of the companies responsible for their asbestos exposure knew of the dangers decades before the public knew. People affected can file claims for mesothelioma compensation.

Mesothelioma legal claims are no longer filed as class actions in part because these cases are often unique, and the compensation amounts vary significantly.

Class Actions vs. Mass Torts

Class actions and mass torts are similar. Both involve groups of plaintiffs collaborating for some or all of the case process. The main difference between the two is mass torts treat each plaintiff’s case individually, meaning the victims must prove their case individually to the court, while class actions examine the cases as a collective unit. Mass tort compensation is also treated individually for each case.

Class actions usually involve a lot of people – dozens, hundreds or even thousands – while mass torts involve a much smaller number. Mesothelioma attorneys can further explain the difference.

Benefits of Mesothelioma Class Actions

  • Class action lawsuits allowed victims to combine their cases into one and have one or a few victims represent the entire group, which absolved some victims of having to take part in the legal process.
  • Asbestos class actions were useful for situations where workers who were exposed to asbestos at the same job site had the same asbestos-related disease. They could file a lawsuit against the same asbestos manufacturers. However, asbestos can cause several conditions, so the likelihood of each worker having the same one is low.
  • Asbestos class action claims also were useful for military veterans who served aboard asbestos-laden ships and aircraft and developed mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. Navy class action lawsuits helped veterans with mesothelioma get asbestos compensation as a group due to the similarities of their exposure histories.
  • Class actions save the court time and money, streamlining dozens of cases into one case that follows a singular process.

Why Not to File a Mesothelioma Class Action Lawsuit

Class action lawsuits are no longer the best approach for mesothelioma victims due to a number of reasons. For starters, most people have a unique asbestos exposure history, meaning their exposure to asbestos products is different from other people’s exposure. There are few instances where there are enough similarities to make a class action sensible for asbestos victims.

As an example, according to KCIC, there were 3,550 asbestos legal claims filed in 2022 and 3,819 filed in 2021. In 2019, there were 4,141, the most in the past five years. Nearly all of those cases are unique due to the specifics of each victim’s asbestos exposure and the responsible companies. Combining all or even half of them into one class action would not make sense.

Another reason class actions don’t work is that there are multiple asbestos companies identified as responsible for the victims’ exposure in most cases. Even if one company matches among various cases, it’s unlikely all the companies will align.

Other reasons asbestos class actions are no longer applicable for mesothelioma legal claims include:

  • Unique circumstances for each case – Not all asbestos victims have similar diseases, nor were they exposed in the same way or to the same asbestos products. Asbestos exposure can cause lung cancer, ovarian cancer, the rare cancer called mesothelioma, and a deadly noncancerous lung scarring condition called asbestosis. Individual lawsuits allow each victim to pursue compensation based on the unique merits of their case.
  • Filing in multiple states – Individual lawsuits also allow people to file the lawsuits in multiple states, which might not apply for every person in the class action. File an asbestos claim on your own so that you don’t need to worry about the specifics of other cases.
  • Amount of compensation – Generally, the compensation amount for a mesothelioma class action case isn’t as substantial as filing separately. Individual mesothelioma lawsuits are tailored to one person’s circumstances, such as their exposure history. The average mesothelioma claim results in approximately $1 million-$1.4 million in compensation.
  • Length of the case – An asbestos class action lawsuit requires the cooperation of many people, so the process can take a lot of time. It’s possible the victims are not aligned with how to proceed, such as whether to accept a settlement offer or proceed to a trial. An appeals process can extend the case process by multiple years. Unfortunately, some late-stage mesothelioma patients don’t have this much time to wait for compensation.

Drawbacks of Mesothelioma Class Actions

The main reasons victims of asbestos exposure and asbestos-related diseases should not file a class action lawsuit include:

  • Class action plaintiffs have less control over their case. They must collaborate with other victims and cannot make personal decisions based on what’s best for them and their family.
  • Claimants split class-action compensation from a mesothelioma claim equally, which can result in lower payouts, rather than have their case treated individually.

If you have any questions about your case and the best approach, connect with Mesothelioma Guide’s team. An experienced mesothelioma lawyer can help you go through the legal steps.

What Happened to Mesothelioma Class Actions?

Mesothelioma class action lawsuits were intended to combine numerous cases of asbestos victims to gather large amounts of data and hold groups of asbestos companies accountable. However, the efforts were not as successful as planned.

The first notable case was Georgine v. Amchem Products, Inc., in 1994. The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit found that the class could not adequately meet Federal Rule of Civil Procedure requirements because all asbestos cases are unique.

The Supreme Court of the United States affirmed the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit’s decision in 1997 in a case called Amchem Products Inc. v. Windsor. This decision from the Supreme Court ended the opportunity for future asbestos class actions.

Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Cases for Mesothelioma

Rather than filing class actions, people diagnosed with mesothelioma usually pursue a personal injury lawsuit. These cases are filed by people who have been directly affected by asbestos manufacturing companies and have a mesothelioma diagnosis.

Personal injury cases can lead to one of two types of asbestos claims:

  • Lawsuits – Filed against companies that are still active and can be taken to court
  • Asbestos trust funds – Filed against bankrupt asbestos companies that have created trust funds to compensate current and future victims

If the person with mesothelioma cancer has passed away, then their surviving loved ones can file for wrongful death lawsuit. These cases can also lead to lawsuits or asbestos trust fund claims, depending on whether the responsible company is active or bankrupt. They conclude with a mesothelioma settlement or verdict, just like any other type of lawsuit.

Filing a Mesothelioma Claim

Mesothelioma victims can receive compensation through individual asbestos lawsuits, which are uniquely developed and personalized. Finding an experienced lawyer who understands the complex medical and legal aspects of a mesothelioma lawsuit is the first step in seeking compensation.

If you or a family member has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, connect with our team of patient advocates. They can connect you with legal experts who can evaluate your case for free and explain all of your options.

Frequently Asked Questions About Mesothelioma Class Action Lawsuits

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What are class action lawsuits?

Class actions are joint legal claims filed by one plaintiff on behalf of numerous people with the same or similar injuries or diseases. These joint claims group dozens of cases together as one to streamline the legal process.

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Why aren’t class action lawsuits used for mesothelioma claims?

Class actions do not make sense for mesothelioma claims due the unique circumstances of each victim’s case. The main difference in mesothelioma cases is the history of asbestos exposure and the responsible companies. Individual claims allow victims to pursue compensation based on the unique merits of their case.

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What should I do if my lawyer suggests an asbestos class action lawsuit?

Class actions are no longer used for mesothelioma lawsuits, so your lawyer should not suggest this type of legal action. You can seek the advice of another legal expert if you believe you’re not being given the best guidance on how to handle your case.

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What happened to mesothelioma class action lawsuits?

A case in 1994 titled Georgine v. Amchem Products, Inc., effectively ended class actions for asbestos-related diseases. The Supreme Court later affirmed the decision in this case. The decisions were made because a class action would settle the case before each individual learned their specific history of asbestos exposure.

Sources & Author

  1. White, M.J. (2005). Asbestos Litigation. Retrieved from: https://econweb.ucsd.edu/~miwhite/Manh-Inst-talk.pdf. Accessed: 11/1/18.
  2. Hanlon, P.M. & Smetak, A.M. (2007). Asbestos Changes. Retrieved from: http://www.law.nyu.edu/sites/default/files/ecm_pro_064613.pdf. Accessed: 11/1/18.
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About the Writer, Retired LCDR Carl Jewett, VA Claims Agent

LCDR Carl Jewett is a retired Naval Officer who serves as the Veterans Department Director and Patient Services Director at Mesothelioma Guide. He is a VA-Accredited Claims Agent with more than 14 years of experience filing asbestos-related VA claims. He has helped over 1400 veterans who have been diagnosed with asbestos-related illnesses get approved for VA Disability Compensation, VA Pension, and/or Aid & Attendance benefits. Because veteran’s are also entitled to compensation through the legal system, Carl has communicated with many mesothelioma law firms across the country. He has gained extensive knowledge of asbestos trust funds, mesothelioma lawsuits, settlements, and the claims process. He provides both veterans and civilians with information regarding their legal options.