Mesothelioma Lawsuit Statute of Limitations
In the United States, mesothelioma and asbestos claims were first filed in the late 1960s before the enactment of US mesothelioma and asbestos laws. These early cases established important legal principles that still guide mesothelioma and asbestos litigation today. One of the most important of these principles is the mesothelioma lawsuit statute of limitations.
The statute of limitations is a law that sets a deadline for filing a lawsuit. In mesothelioma cases, the deadline is usually set a few years from diagnosis. These statutes were established to ensure that claims are filed while they can still be corroborated with first-hand evidence. For asbestos claims, this statute is outlined in the Federal Tort Claims Act. The provisions in the act include the eligibility requirements of claimants and exceptions where applicable.
The deadlines set by the statute of limitations can be different in each state, and they can also be different for different types of lawsuits. Some US states have shorter deadlines for personal injury claims than they do for medical malpractice claims. In addition, the statute of limitations can be "tolled" or extended in some circumstances. In cases where the victim is a minor or where the identity of the responsible party is unknown, the deadline may be extended.
It is important to note that the statute of limitations is not the same as the statute of repose. The statute of repose sets an absolute deadline for filing a lawsuit, regardless of when the injury was discovered. In the case of mesothelioma or asbestos-related cases, the mesothelioma statute of repose would be set at a specific number of years after the exposure occurred.
Asbestos exposure can cause several serious health problems, including mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lungs. Despite the well-known risks associated with asbestos, many companies continued to use the mineral in their products until the early 1980s. Because it can take decades for symptoms of mesothelioma to develop, most people who have been exposed to asbestos are not diagnosed with the disease until many years later.
Statute of Limitations on Mesothelioma Claims in the US
The statute of limitations on mesothelioma claims is primarily determined by the jurisdiction where the asbestos exposure occurred, or the claim is filed. Most US states have statutes of limitations that range from one to six years. While the specific amount of time the victim has to file a claim depends on the state’s governing laws, several claim-related federal laws might affect the victim's ability to receive compensation.
The first is the Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA), which applies if the claimant was exposed to asbestos while working on a railroad. FELA has a three-year statute of limitations, which starts from the date of the diagnosis. If the victim is filing a claim under FELA, they must also prove that the railroad was negligent in exposing them to asbestos.
The second federal law is the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA), which provides benefits to workers injured while working on the docks, in shipyards, or any other maritime occupation. LHWCA has a two-year statute of limitations, which starts from the date of the injury.
The third federal law is the Defense Base Act (DBA), which provides benefits to civilian workers who were injured while working on a US military base or facility. DBA has a two-year statute of limitations beginning from the date of the injury.
The fourth federal law is the Veterans' Benefits Act, which provides benefits to veterans exposed to asbestos while serving in the military. The Veterans' Benefits Act has a two-year statute of limitations, which starts from the date of the diagnosis.
In addition to the aforementioned laws, several state laws might apply to a victim's mesothelioma claim. Some states have workers' compensation laws that benefit workers exposed to asbestos while on the job. These laws typically have a one-year statute of limitations, which starts from the date of the injury or diagnosis. Other states have personal injury laws that allow victims to file a civil lawsuit against the company that exposed them to asbestos. These laws typically have a two or three-year statute of limitations, which starts from the date of the diagnosis.
Asbestos Lawsuit Statute of Limitations by State
The following are the statute of limitations in some of the US most populous states:
California: According to California's statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits, an asbestos lawsuit must be filed within two years of diagnosis. If the exposure occurred more than two years ago, the personal injury lawsuit must be filed within one year of the date that the exposure was discovered to be a cause of the injury.
Texas: The statute of limitations for filing an asbestos lawsuit in Texas is specified in the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code. The code provides that an asbestos lawsuit must be filed within two years of the date of diagnosis or within one year of the date that the exposure was discovered to be a cause of the injury, whichever is later.
New York: The New York Court of Appeals holds that the statute of limitations for filing an asbestos lawsuit is three years from diagnosis. However, if the exposure occurred more than three years ago, the lawsuit must be filed within one year of the date that the exposure was confirmed to be the cause of the disease.
Florida: The Florida Supreme Court specifies the statute of limitations for filing an asbestos lawsuit to be four years from diagnosis. However, if the exposure occurred more than four years ago, the lawsuit must be filed within one year of the date that the exposure to asbestos was discovered to be the reason for the diagnosis.
Pennsylvania: According to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the statute of limitations for filing an asbestos lawsuit is two years from the date of diagnosis. However, if the exposure occurred more than two years ago, the lawsuit must be filed within one year of the date that the exposure was discovered to be a cause of the injury.
What are the Factors Affecting Mesothelioma Statutes of Limitations in the US?
The following are some factors affecting Mesothelioma statutes of limitations in the US:
- The state in which the asbestos exposure occurred: Each state has its own laws regarding the amount of time a person has to file a claim after being exposed to asbestos.
- The type of asbestos exposure: Different types of asbestos exposure may have different statutes of limitations.
- The date of diagnosis: In some cases, the statute of limitations does not begin until the victim is diagnosed with mesothelioma.
- The age of the victim: Some states have different statutes of limitations for minors and adults.
- The victim's employment history: If the victim was exposed to asbestos while on the job, they might be covered by workers' compensation laws, which have different statutes of limitations.
- The nature of the disease or claim: Some diseases resulting from asbestos exposure may be considered more severe than others and impact the claim. In addition, a wrongful death claim may have different statutes of limitations.
- The presence of other diseases: If the victim has other illnesses which may have been caused by asbestos exposure, the statute of limitations may be extended.
Determining Whether Your Mesothelioma Claim is Within the Statute of Limitations
There are two types of statutes of limitations that may apply to a mesothelioma or asbestos claim in the United States:
- The general personal injury statute of limitations: This refers to the time specified for personal injury claims (such as mesothelioma or asbestos claims). It typically varies from state to state but is typically between one and six years.
- The asbestos trust fund filing deadline: If the plaintiff wishes to file a claim with an asbestos trust fund, they must do so within the specified period set forth by that particular trust fund.
The best way the claimant can determine whether their mesothelioma claim is within the statute of limitations is by considering the following factors:
- The date of diagnosis: In most cases, the clock on the statute of limitations starts ticking from the date of diagnosis.
- The applicable statutes of limitations: As mentioned above, there may be more than one statute of limitations that applies to the claim.
- The jurisdiction in which the claim will be filed: The law governing the statute of limitations can vary depending on the jurisdiction in which the claim is filed.
- Whether any exceptions apply: There are a few circumstances where the statute of limitations may be extended, such as if the claimant is a minor or if the claimant is suffering from a mental illness.
What is the US Statute on Asbestos Lawsuit Payouts?
The primary statute providing lawsuit payouts is the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). The FTCA allows claimants to receive compensation for certain torts committed by government employees. These torts can include negligence, personal injury, or wrongful death. To receive a payout under the FTCA, the claimant must file a claim with the appropriate federal agency. If the agency denies the claim, the claimant can file a lawsuit in federal court.
If the court rules in favor of the claimant, they will typically order the government to pay damages to the claimant. The amount paid in damages will depend on the specific facts of the case and may include economic damages (like medical expenses) and non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering. Claimants may also be awarded punitive damages in cases where the government employee acted with gross negligence or malice. Once the court orders the government to pay damages, the claimant will typically receive their payout within a few weeks.
In the case of an asbestos lawsuit, the process for receiving a payout may be slightly different. Asbestos lawsuits are typically handled as mass tort litigation since there are many claimants to one defendant company/establishment. In these cases, the court may order the defendants to set up a trust fund to pay out damages to claimants. The amount of each claimant's payout will depend on the specific facts of their case and the amount of money available in the trust fund. Claimants typically receive their payouts from asbestos trust funds within a few months of the court's decision.
Statute of Limitations on Mesothelioma Claims by Claim Type
There are several types of mesothelioma claims, and the statute of limitations (SOL) for each claim may be different. The kind of mesothelioma claim will determine the applicable SOL.
Personal Injury Claims
A personal injury claim for mesothelioma can be filed as either a negligence or strict liability claim. A negligence claim alleges that the defendant failed to exercise a reasonable degree of care and, as a result, the plaintiff was injured. A strict liability claim does not require proof of negligence on the defendant's part; instead, it only requires that the plaintiff show that the defendant is liable because they manufactured or sold a defective product.
The statute of limitations for a personal injury claim varies from state to state, but it is generally between two and four years. However, there are exceptions to this rule. For example, if the plaintiff was a minor at the time of their injury, the statute of limitations may be extended.
Wrongful Death Claims
Wrongful death lawsuits are typically filed by the surviving relatives of a person who died due to asbestos exposure or mesothelioma. For wrongful death claims, the statute of limitations is generally two to four years from the alleged wrongful death, but it can vary from state to state.
Asbestos Trust Fund Claims
Asbestos trust funds have been set up by companies that have filed for bankruptcy due to asbestos-related liability. The persons eligible to file for these claims are typically those who have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease.
The statute of limitations for asbestos trust fund claims varies depending on the trust fund, but it is generally between one and three years from diagnosis.
Product Liability Claims
Product liability claims can be filed against companies that manufactured or sold products containing asbestos. These claims can be filed as either negligence or strict liability claims.
The statute of limitations for product liability claims is generally between two and four years, but it can vary from state to state.
Worker's Compensation Claims
Worker's compensation claims are typically filed by people who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos at their job.
The statute of limitations for worker's compensation claims varies from state to state, but it is generally between one and two years from diagnosis.
Class Action Lawsuits
Class action lawsuits are typically filed by a group of people who have been harmed by the same product or company. Asbestos class-action lawsuits have been filed against companies that manufactured or sold products containing asbestos.
The statute of limitations for class action lawsuits is generally between two and four years, but it can vary from state to state.
Federal Tort Claims Act Claims
The Federal Tort Claims Act allows claimants file lawsuits against the government for a personal injury resulting from the negligence of a government employee. Asbestos exposure is a common type of injury that the Federal Tort Claims Act covers.
The statute of limitations for Federal Tort Claims Act claims is two years from the date of the diagnosis.
Veterans Benefits Claims
Veterans who have been exposed to asbestos while serving in the military may be eligible for benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA provides disability compensation, health care, and other benefits to eligible veterans.
There is no specified statute of limitations on veterans' benefits claims. However, claims must be filed within one year of diagnosis for mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. Otherwise, it must be filed in under two years if it is a wrongful death claim.
What are My Mesothelioma Compensation Options in the US?
Individuals who develop mesothelioma may be able to pursue compensation from several different sources. Mesothelioma victims may be able to file a lawsuit against one or more companies that manufactured, supplied, or used asbestos-containing products. Additionally, some states have established funds to provide compensation to mesothelioma victims and their families.
Mesothelioma lawsuits are typically filed against companies that manufactured asbestos-containing products or were otherwise responsible for exposing individuals to asbestos.
In addition to filing a lawsuit, mesothelioma victims in the United States may be able to obtain compensation from state-established funds. These funds are typically supported by asbestos companies and are used to pay claims without the need for litigation. Some of these funds have strict eligibility requirements, so it is important to check with the fund administrator before applying for benefits.
Mesothelioma victims may be able to obtain compensation through workers' compensation programs. These programs provide benefits to individuals who were exposed to asbestos while on the job. Workers' compensation programs vary from state to state, so it is important to check with the state's program to confirm its eligibility requirements before applying.
Veterans exposed to asbestos while serving in the military may be eligible for compensation through the Department of Veterans Affairs. These benefits can help cover the cost of medical treatment and other expenses related to the disease.
Social security disability benefits may also be available to mesothelioma victims. To qualify for these benefits, individuals must have worked enough years to earn the required number of credits and must be unable to work due to their illness.
Furthermore, some mesothelioma victims may be able to obtain compensation through private insurance policies. These policies may provide coverage for the cost of medical treatments and other expenses related to the disease.
Where Should I File My Mesothelioma Claim in the US?
In the United States, mesothelioma or asbestos-exposure victims may file their mesothelioma claims in one of several ways; with the Department of Labor's Office of Workers' Compensation Programs (OWCP) or through a state or federal court.
The OWCP is a federal program that provides benefits to workers injured or who contract an illness at work. The OWCP typically offers benefits for asbestos-related diseases. If the claimant is a current or former federal employee, they may be eligible for benefits through the OWCP.
If the claimant is not a federal employee, or if they are ineligible for benefits through the OWCP, they may file a lawsuit in state or federal court. In most cases, mesothelioma claimants will file their lawsuits in state court. There are some circumstances in which it may be advantageous to file in federal court. However, claimants may only file their claims in federal court if they meet specific jurisdictional requirements.
Other options for filing a mesothelioma claim include:
- Filing a claim with the Veterans Administration (VA)
- Filing a claim with state workers' compensation programs
- Filing a claim with private insurance companies
Compensation Options if Your Mesothelioma Statute of Limitations Expires in the US
According to the provisions of the US Federal Tort Claims Act, the statute of limitations for mesothelioma lawsuits is two years.
Claimants who miss this deadline may still be able to receive compensation through other avenues, such as the Veterans Administration or state-sponsored compensation programs. They may also be able to negotiate a settlement with the asbestos company responsible for their exposure.
The Veterans Administration
If the claimant or their family member is a veteran, they may be eligible for compensation and benefits through the Veterans Administration. The VA provides disability benefits to veterans who have been exposed to asbestos while serving in the military.
State-sponsored compensation programs
Some states have created their own compensation programs for mesothelioma patients. These programs typically provide financial assistance to those who cannot file a lawsuit because the statute of limitations has expired.
Negotiating a Settlement
Claimants may be able to negotiate a settlement with the asbestos company responsible for their exposure. This is often done through mediation or arbitration. However, if the statute of limitations has expired, the claimant may have limited bargaining power.
Asbestos Litigation After Statute of Limitations Elapses
The court will almost certainly dismiss the case when a claimant files a lawsuit after the statute of limitations has elapsed. The claimant will have no legal recourse if this happens.
There are a few ways that claimants, or their mesothelioma lawyer can try to avoid this outcome, but they are all uncertain:
- The claimant might try to argue that the statute of limitations should not apply in their case because of the means that they were diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease. If the initial diagnosis was conducted through questionable medical practices or if the medicial practictioner was deemed unqualified to diagnose the claimant, their mesothelioma lawyer may argue against the validity of their first diagnosis, thus suggesting that the statutue of limitations should be estimated from subsequent diagnosis; that is, where the claimant later sought professional medical advice. However, it is ultimately up to the court to decide whether or not to allow the case to proceed, and there is no guarantee that they will do so.
- Claimants might try to avoid having their case dismissed due to the statute of limitations by finding new evidence unavailable when the original claim was filed.
- Alternatively, the claimant's mesothelioma lawyer may find legal loopholes, such as the defendant not being adequately served their legal notice, which may allow the case to proceed even though the statute of limitations has elapsed.
What is the Discovery Rule for Asbestos Cases in the US?
The discovery rule is a legal principle that allows plaintiffs in certain cases to bring claims even if the statute of limitations has expired. The rationale behind the rule is that it would be unfair to require someone to bring a claim within a specific time period if they could not reasonably have been aware of their injury.
The discovery rule generally applies in cases where the plaintiff has suffered an injury that is not immediately apparent. For example, if someone is exposed to asbestos and does not develop cancer for many years, the discovery rule would allow them to bring a claim even if the statute of limitations had expired.
Different statutes prescribe the discovery rule in different jurisdictions. In some cases, the rule may only apply if the plaintiff can show that they were not reasonably aware of their injury. In other cases, the rule may apply if the plaintiff can show that they exercised due diligence in trying to discover their injury.
In the case of asbestos, the discovery rule is significant because the effects of exposure may not be immediately apparent. This means that people who have been exposed to asbestos may not realize they have an injury until many years later.
Late Discovery Asbestos Cases in the US
There have been several late discovery asbestos cases in the US; they include:
- 17-1104 Air & Liquid Systems Corp. v. DeVries: During this case, it was revealed that the manufacturers failed to warn two navy veterans, Kenneth McAfee and John DeVries, about the dangers of the asbestos in the integrated products. Ultimately, the court proceeded to affirm the District Court concerning the plaintiff's strict liability claims and remanded further proceedings on their negligence claims.
- Mary Juni vs. A.O. Smith Water Products Co. et al., Ford Motor Company: In this case, the plaintiff, Arthur Juni, was deceased. He originally commenced the personal injury action following his mesothelioma diagnosis, which was allegedly caused by asbestos exposure while he worked as an auto mechanic for the defendants. Subsequently, his widow, Mary Juni, who was declared the administrator of Juni's estate, pursued the plea. While the original returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff, the trial court would later grant the defendant's motion to set aside the verdict. However, the case was eventually appealed.
- Estate of Wright v. ExxonMobil Oil Corp: In this case, the plaintiff sued ExxonMobil and other defendants following his father's wrongful death from mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure in oil refineries while working alongside an independent contractor. While the other companies settled, Mobil proceeded to trial. The court ruled in favor of the plaintiff issuing him a compensation of $4 Million.
- Estate of Everson v. Lone Star Industries, Inc.: In this case, the plaintiff was awarded $4.2 Million after their mesothelioma attorney cited the defendant's failure to warn as a basis for negligence.
- Estate of Fowlkes v. Norfolk Southern Railway Co.: This case was heard in Virginia, and the plaintiff was awarded $5 Million following a wrongful death lawsuit.
What if I Have More Than One Asbestos Disease?
If a claimant has more than one asbestos disease, the statutes of limitations may be tolled or extended. This is because each diagnosis represents a separate claim. For example, if a claimant is diagnosed with asbestosis and mesothelioma, they may have two years from the date of their mesothelioma diagnosis to file a claim for both diseases. However, if the claimant is only diagnosed with asbestosis, they would have two years from that diagnosis to file a claim. Notwithstanding, claimants are advised to seek the counsel of an experienced mesothelioma attorney regarding the specificities of their case.