Texas Asbestos Lawsuits
Texas Asbestos Lawsuit
A Texas asbestos lawsuit is a legal claim filed against an entity (usually a corporation) that seeks compensation for damages or injury for the entity's responsibility in the plaintiff's exposure to asbestos. These lawsuits are filed per Texas mesothelioma and asbestos laws.
Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring minerals that were once utilized for their ability to resist heat, electricity, and corrosion. Asbestos is composed of flexible fibers that are ideally used in several products, including different insulating materials in buildings, such as asbestos cement and tiles, to name a few. However, mild exposure to asbestos has been linked to several life-threatening diseases, including cancer.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set forth guidelines that moderate the use of asbestos at the federal level to protect workers and citizens alike from asbestos exposure. Part 61 of the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) also sets the national emission standard for asbestos. At the state level, several laws are overseen by the Department of State Health Services to protect Texans and detail the liability of entities in the exposure of asbestos.
Since there is a likelihood of developing severe diseases due to asbestos exposure, state and federal laws allow individuals exposed to asbestos to sue entities or organizations liable for the asbestos exposure. While the implications of an asbestos lawsuit include the possibility of receiving compensation for individuals exposed to asbestos due to the negligence of an entity, it also holds this entity (the defendant) accountable for the actions leading to the exposure.
Types of Asbestos Lawsuits
There are primarily two types of asbestos lawsuits that may be filed in Texas. They include personal injury claims and wrongful death claims.
Wrongful death lawsuits: when an individual dies due to their asbestos exposure, their surviving family member or a representative has the right to file a wrongful death claim against the entity that exposed the deceased to asbestos. These asbestos lawsuits are typically filed to receive compensation to cover the funeral cost, the income potential lost, unresolved medical bills, or other forms of loss.
Personal injury lawsuits: this type of asbestos lawsuit is initiated by a claimant suffering from diseases due to asbestos exposure. These individuals have the right to file Personal injury claims against the entities of companies that are liable for their asbestos exposure due to these entities' negligent practices. The settlement received from a personal injury lawsuit is used to recoup money the plaintiff lost on medical bills, travels, and lost income and compensate for the suffering and other inconveniences.
Based on the eligibility of the plaintiff, other claims may be filed, which include:
- Asbestos trust fund claim: As previously mentioned, an asbestos lawsuit can be filed by an asbestos exposure victim or their family members against entities for their roles in the victim's exposure to asbestos. As a result of these subsequent lawsuits, large sums of money were set aside in trust funds by asbestos companies, particularly in the event of their bankruptcy, to settle past, present, and future claims.
- Veterans benefit claim: This claim is filed with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) by veterans who develop disabilities or diseases as a product of their military service. These claims are filed by veterans who develop asbestos exposure-related diseases such as mesothelioma. The compensations are dispensed to help victims and their families with treatment costs, pain, lost income, suffering, and associated damages.
- Class action lawsuit: A class-action lawsuit involves one or two individuals filing an asbestos lawsuit in the interest of a group of persons. This typically consists of a group of people that have similar injury claims against a particular defendant.
Who Can File an Asbestos Lawsuit in Texas?
Persons that have been exposed to asbestos or those who have developed asbestos exposure-related diseases due to their exposure have the right to file an asbestos lawsuit and receive compensation from liable entities. If these asbestos exposure victims die, their surviving family members also have the right to file an asbestos lawsuit against responsible entities.
In Texas, specific industries are prone to asbestos exposure due to their work. These include oil industries, particularly oil refineries such as sun oil company in Beaumont. Members of the military are also prone to asbestos exposure due to their reliance on asbestos in ships, equipment, and bases.
How to File an Asbestos Lawsuit in Texas
Generally, asbestos products are liable for claims regardless of the product's quality, design, or the methods used in manufacturing these products. However, several factors are considered when filing a Texas asbestos lawsuit. These factors include breach of warranty, negligence, strict liability, and the provision of asbestos-related injuries causation (proof).
When a claimant intends to file an asbestos lawsuit, it is always advisable to seek advised legal advice or hire a lawyer or law firm, particularly those specializing in a mesothelioma case. This helps the exposure of claimants to more in-depth knowledge of both state laws, federal laws, and the legal processes about asbestos suits in Texas. Seeking legal advice also provides much-needed counsel on the best procedures to consider when filing an asbestos lawsuit. Due to these dedicated professionals' experiences and expert knowledge (lawyers and law firms), a claimant's rights and interests are appropriately preserved before, during, and after the litigation process.
Per chapter 90 of the Civil Practice & Remedies Code, claimants are required to serve the following to the defendants when filing an asbestos-related injury claim:
- A certified physician report that substantiates the claimant has been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma or other malignant asbestos-related cancer or diseases. This report would also need to prove that the diagnosed disease was caused by asbestos exposure.
- A certified physician report verifies that an extensive physical examination of the asbestos exposure victim was performed, and all available medical record of the victim has been reviewed. The Information would also need to take into consideration the past ten (10) of the asbestos exposure victim's medical report and substantiates that the victim's illness or death was not due to any other cause rather than asbestos exposure.
The certified physician report would also need it fit other requirements stated in section 90.003 Civil Practice & Remedies Code.
Due to the increase in the number of asbestos lawsuits filed in Texas, the multidistrict litigation procedure (MDL) was introduced in 2003 to consolidate and expedite asbestos lawsuits processes. Per the MDL, specific courts can group objectively similar claims to hasten claims review processes.
The steps for filing an asbestos lawsuit are as follows:
- Designate a mesothelioma lawyer or law firm: This step involves choosing a legal representative for a consultation to have details regarding a plaintiff's claim reviewed. In this step, the legal actions of the claimant are also reviewed to select the best possible option.
- Preparation and case analysis: This involves a critical review of the claimant's medical, work, and asbestos exposure history by an attorney. In this phase, the claimant would also be asked important questions about their medical, work, and asbestos exposure history.
- Filing the asbestos lawsuit: As the name implies, the asbestos lawsuit is filed against the defendant by the claimant's attorney in this phase. The defendant usually offers a settlement offer. However, the claimant's attorney would either advise to take the offer or negotiate for additional compensation depending on the strength of the claimant's case.
- Discovery and responses: This phase involves the defendant being sent copies of the lawsuit. The defendant is usually given around 30 days to respond. After which, both sides would gather Information about the claim by asking each party to answer written questions, provide evidence to support their claims, and participate in depositions. It is important to note that, Information retrieved in this phase may be used as evidence in court.
- Settlement or trial: As implied, in this phase, the claimants are usually offered a settlement to settle the case out of court, or the case would proceed to trial.
- Resolution: In this phase, if the case is won, the defendant may appeal the judgment, which delays the payment of the compensation awarded by the court to the plaintiff. However, around 30 to 180 days are provided after the judgment is given to file for an appeal to be filed by the defender.
How Long Do Asbestos Lawsuits Take in Texas?
The duration a Texas asbestos lawsuit may take before being resolved differs from case to case and is also dependent on several factors. As a result, certain cases may take months to be resolved, while others take years to get resolved. Some determining factors of how long an asbestos lawsuit may take include:
- Jurisdiction: A good indication of how long an asbestos lawsuit may take is the court in which the case is filled. Some courts have dedicated departments that handle asbestos cases; claims tend to move relatively faster in these courts. Other courts may mix asbestos claims with unrelated matters, making asbestos claims prone to delay due to courtroom shortages. It is important to note that federal courts tend to be usually slower than state courts. The jurisdiction backlogs of unresolved cases may also contribute to extended timelines of asbestos lawsuits cases that are filed in these courts.
- Claimant's health: Under section 90.010 C of S.B No.15, when an asbestos claim is transferred to multidistrict litigation (MDL) court, the case would be treated in the shortest time possible base on the asbestos exposure victims' health and principles of due process.
- Evidence: The quality of the evidence proved in support or against a claim is a key determinant of the winning party of the case. Quality evidence typically takes time to gather. Both parties would need to collect and review their litigant's testimonies, witness testimonies, and other documents and evidence provided by both parties
- Defendants: Having multiple defendants in a claim may increase the time needed for the litigation process, unlike a claim with a single defendant.
- Appeals: If any motions or judgments are appealed during an asbestos lawsuit litigation process, the timeline of the lawsuit may be extended. As appeals have different schedules and procedures from those used in lawsuits.
Asbestos Class Action Lawsuits in Texas
A personal injury or a wrongful death asbestos lawsuit can be handled as an individual claim or class action lawsuit (also known as multidistrict litigation). An asbestos class-action lawsuit involves different cases being combined with similar cases based on several related factors between these cases. These factors include similar injuries or the same defendant across cases. In an asbestos class action lawsuit, one or more plaintiffs file a lawsuit as a representative of a group of people. These groups may range anywhere from a small group of people to a group containing thousands of claimants.
Before a class actions lawsuit is approved, the presiding court considers several factors. These include the number of cases in the suit and if these cases are sufficiently similar. The former is used to determine if filing an individual claim for each case involved in the class action lawsuit would be impractical or exhausting. The latter is used to determine the similarities in cases. After the court reviewed these factors and found them to be sufficient to warrant a class-action lawsuit, the court would then approve and certify the class of the class-action case.
Although filing a class action lawsuit may help provide a faster avenue for multiple cases to be reviewed by a court and for claimants to access compensations quicker. Certain drawbacks are associated with filing a class-action lawsuit. These include claimants waving their right to an individual trial. Another disadvantage is that the payment would be shared by several claimants, which may lead to lesser amounts being distributed across claimants instead of an individual claim.
Asbestos Lawsuit Statute of Limitations in Texas
Generally, Per the Civil Practice and Remedies Code section 16.1130, the statute of limitation for filing a Texas asbestos lawsuit is two (2) years from either the death of the asbestos exposure victim or the date where the claimant serves a defendant their medical report that complies with section 90.003 or 90.010 (f). There are no laws that specify the statutes of limitation for filing different asbestos lawsuits, such as individual claims or class action lawsuits.