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Written By: Camryn Keeble

Mesothelioma Lawsuit Appeals

Mesothelioma lawsuit appeals challenge a previously decided court verdict. Appeals are sent to a higher court to review the case and determine if any errors occurred during legal proceedings. However, most mesothelioma lawsuits do not include successful appeals.

Troy Walton

Reviewed By

Troy E. Walton

Personal Injury Attorney

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Important Facts About Mesothelioma Lawsuit Appeals

  • Appealing a decision in a mesothelioma lawsuit means one party involved in the case did not agree with a ruling in the case.
  • Mesothelioma lawsuit appeals are granted only if there was a legal error in the original case proceedings.
  • Appealing a mesothelioma lawsuit can be complex and time-consuming, and it may not even result in a favorable decision for the party pursuing the appeal.

Who Can Appeal a Mesothelioma Lawsuit Verdict?

In mesothelioma lawsuits, either party (plaintiff or defendant) can appeal a ruling by the judge or the court’s verdict. A plaintiff (victim) will appeal a verdict in which the jury sided with the defendant. The defendants can appeal mesothelioma lawsuit verdicts that order them to pay the people affected by mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma verdicts can be appealed for any reason but are successful only if there is proof of a legal error within the case. There must be a legal basis to overturn a verdict, meaning an error occurred during the case which led to an unjust verdict.

Who Usually Appeals Mesothelioma Lawsuit Verdicts?

Asbestos manufacturing companies are often the defendants in mesothelioma lawsuits. Asbestos exposure is the only cause of mesothelioma, and asbestos was a popular mineral used in construction projects during the 20th century, which led to regular exposure for millions of Americans whose jobs involved handling asbestos or working in work sites containing the mineral. This is why manufacturers of asbestos have faced legal claims from people impacted by mesothelioma cancer.

These companies usually appeal mesothelioma verdicts that order them to pay victims. The verdicts are often in the millions. Some are even hundreds of millions of dollars. Usually, the defending asbestos manufacturing companies will appeal verdicts that order high dollar amounts paid to the victims. Some of these monumental verdicts have led to the creation of asbestos trust funds.

An example of a mesothelioma lawsuit appeal is Johnson & Johnson, the health and beauty company that makes powders, shampoo and other products. Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder was made for decades with talc, a mineral that can be contaminated with asbestos. Johnson & Johnson is a defendant in tens of thousands of cancer lawsuits.

One asbestos cancer lawsuit against the company resulted in a verdict of $4.7 billion to be paid to four women. Johnson & Johnson appealed the decision, and a state appeals court dropped two of the women from the case, lowering the verdict to approximately $2 billion. Johnson & Johnson continued appealing the verdict all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which refused to hear the appeal. That decision not to hear the appeal forced the company to finally compensate the victims.

An example of a successful appeal was Johnson & Johnson’s effort to overturn a 2020 verdict that awarded $750 million to four people with mesothelioma. The verdict was first lowered to $185 million to follow New Jersey law stating punitive damages in a case cannot exceed five times the compensatory damages. Then a New Jersey appeals court overturned and entirely wiped out the original verdict in October 2023.

Who Usually Wins Mesothelioma Lawsuit Appeals? 

Mesothelioma lawsuit appeals are difficult to win. Judges often stand by the original ruling on the case and do not hear lengthy, in-court arguments. Typically, lawyers from mesothelioma law firms are very experienced and rarely make legal errors, which is why filing a successful appeal is rare. However, if there is a clear legal error discovered in the original case, there is a good chance for a verdict reversal.

What Are the Steps in the Mesothelioma Lawsuit Appeal Process?

There are seven main steps of a mesothelioma lawsuit appeal. These are important to know as someone who is considering filing a lawsuit or has received either a favorable or unfavorable verdict.

1

Gather the Records Used in the Original Lawsuit

The first step in appealing a mesothelioma verdict is to gather all medical and legal records. This includes any imaging studies, pathology reports, physician notes, legal evidence, the trial transcript and witness records. It is important for people with mesothelioma to have a complete understanding of their mesothelioma diagnosis and lawsuit to determine if any legal errors occurred that could have affected the outcome.

2

Find an Experienced Mesothelioma Attorney

After gathering all of the records, find an experienced mesothelioma appeals attorney. Appellate mesothelioma lawyers specialize in guiding victims through the appeals process. They will review the records and determine if there is a legal basis for a mesothelioma verdict appeal.

QUICK FACT

QUICK FACT

If your original lawyer did not help you win a case, consider a different attorney to handle the appeal to offer a different and fresh legal approach.

3

File a Notice of Appeal

If the victim and their mesothelioma appellate attorney decide to move forward with an appeal, they will need to file a notice of appeal. This notice must be filed within a certain timeframe, typically within 30 days of the judge’s signing of the original judgment on the verdict, so it is important to act quickly. Once the appealing party, known as the appellant or petitioner, files a notice of appeal, the timeframe for submitting a written argument, or brief, begins.

4

Submit a Written Argument in Support of the Appeal

After a notice has been filed by the appellant, a written argument, or brief, detailing the legal basis for the appeal is required for submission. The appellee, or respondent, has a specific timeframe to file an answering brief defending their position. The appellant may then file a second brief responding to the appellee’s answering brief. The court will then review the case and make a decision, sometimes without a hearing where the attorneys present their arguments. If the court decides in your favor, you may be able to receive compensation for mesothelioma.

5

Appellate Court Reviews the Case

Mesothelioma lawsuit appeals, like all other appeals cases, are heard by an appeals court, also known as an appellate court or a court of appeals. Occasionally, appellate courts will determine whether or not a verdict reversal is necessary by written arguments only, while most of the time they will ask for oral arguments. Oral arguments can be requested by the court or either one of the parties involved in the case. During oral arguments, each party’s attorney is given the opportunity to briefly argue their side of the case and answer the court’s questions. This review process is usually quicker than the original trial process.

6

Appellate Court Judges Meet for Conference

After oral arguments are completed, the appeals court judges will meet privately to come to a decision. The judges will base their decision on whether there was a legal error within the case that could have changed the outcome. There must be a harmful legal error in the case to file for an appeal, but not every legal error is grounds for an appeal. During the judge’s conference, one judge will be assigned to write an opinion. The opinion may go through several drafts before a majority of the court agrees with it. Judges disagreeing with the majority opinion may file a dissenting opinion. Judges agreeing with the result of a majority decision but disagreeing with the majority's reasoning may issue a concurring opinion. Occasionally, the appeals court will simply deliver an unsigned opinion not credited to any particular judge. These are called per curiam, meaning “by the court.”

7

Appeal Can Continue to Higher Court

If the appeals court agrees with the lower court’s decision, the case ends unless the losing party files another appeal to an even higher court. Mesothelioma lawsuit appeals can be dismissed entirely by an appellate court, meaning there is no basis for appeal and the original ruling stands. The highest court to appeal a mesothelioma verdict is the United States Supreme Court. If the Supreme Court upholds the original verdict, the case ends.

What Happens When a Mesothelioma Lawsuit Appeal is Approved?

If a mesothelioma lawsuit appeal is granted by an appellate court, the judge will typically send it back to the lower court and order the court to take action to establish a new verdict. 

There are two main courses of action the appellate court can take:

  • Order a new trial to take place
  • Modify the verdict amount without a new trial

Sometimes the original court will accept new evidence or reconsider the case due to the appellate court’s decision. 

In civil cases, such as mesothelioma lawsuits, an appeal does not automatically stall payment to the winning side. The winning party can enforce the appellate court’s decision by ordering the judgment to be executed. Likewise, the appealing party can file a supersedeas bond, which will prevent further action on the judgment until the appeal is over but also guarantees that the appealing party will pay or abide by the original judgment if the verdict is not reversed.

Frequently Asked Questions About Mesothelioma Lawsuit Appeals

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What happens if I lose my mesothelioma lawsuit appeal?

If you lose your mesothelioma lawsuit appeal, this means an appeals judge agrees with the original judgment on the case. There will be no verdict reversal, and the losing party will not be penalized. However, they can file an appeal with a higher court. The highest and last court someone can file an appeal of an asbestos verdict is the U.S. Supreme Court.

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Who usually appeals a mesothelioma verdict?

The losing party is the side that would appeal a verdict. In mesothelioma lawsuits, this is either the person affected by mesothelioma (plaintiff) or the asbestos manufacturing companies (defendant). In most cases, the asbestos companies will appeal a verdict if it favors the plaintiff and rules for the asbestos company to pay a substantial amount. Some verdicts favoring the victims of mesothelioma require the at-fault asbestos corporations to pay millions of dollars.

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What are the common reasons for a successful mesothelioma lawsuit appeal?

The most common reason for a successful mesothelioma verdict appeal is a legal error significant or harmful enough that the error could have changed the verdict. Sometimes, judges or attorneys can make errors in a case, which can lead to a questionable or improper verdict. Another reason for a successful appeal is juror misconduct which may have affected the outcome of the case.

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How long does it take for a mesothelioma lawsuit appeal to be decided?

An appellate court may issue its decision in as little as a month or as long as a year. The average time period is approximately six months, but there is no time limit. Length of time does not determine the kind of decision the court will reach.

Sources & Author

  1. Appeal. Legal Information Institute. Retrieved from: https://www.nber.org/papers/w10308.pdf?new_window=1. Accessed: 08/15/22.
  2. How Courts Work. American Bar Association. Retrieved from: https://www.americanbar.org/groups/public_education/resources/law_related_education_network/how_courts_work/appeals/. Accessed: 08/15/22.
  3. Supreme Court Says A $2 Billion Verdict In A Baby Powder Cancer Case Should Remain. NPR. Retrieved from: https://www.npr.org/2021/06/01/1002149828/supreme-court-johnson-johnson-talc-verdict-ovarian-cancer. Accessed: 05/17/2022.
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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.