A recent opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times highlighted the challenges that can arise from complex toxic exposure personal injury cases. The article detailed the struggles of a California marine who had been exposed to asbestos and subsequently developed a serious cancer called mesothelioma. Court filings in the case allege that lawyers from the asbestos industry hounded the marine during depositions and that this contributed to his death.
"I couldn't believe that we had spent so much time trying to save this guy and these other people come in really trying to kill him," the marine's thoracic surgeon said.
The court initially ordered 20 hours of depositions in the case and the granted a request for five additional deposition hours. A deposition is a recorded meeting between both parties involved in a lawsuit in which a witness gives testimony out-of-court that is transcribed and then used for discovery or other evidentiary purposes.
Depositions can be rather hostile affairs if not handled properly, and the family of the marine alleges that the asbestos industry attorneys hounded the man in such a manner that he died the next day. This converted the man's lawsuit into a wrongful death action and greatly reduced the amount of recovery available to the man's family.
The marine would have been entitled to damages for pain and suffering and his bodily disfigurement, but his family is now only able to recover damages for loss financial support, affection, and medical bills. This reduces the total amount of recovery almost 70 percent, according to the family's attorney.
Source: Los Angeles Times, "Mesothelioma victims deserve better than wasteful legal maneuvers," Michael Hiltzik, April 22, 2012