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Class Action Lawsuits

Pleural mesothelioma cases are no longer filed as asbestos class action lawsuits. Instead, a person diagnosed with mesothelioma may file a personal-injury lawsuit against one or more defendants. If the person dies of asbestos-related injuries, their estate may be able to file a wrongful-death claim.

History of Asbestos Class Action Lawsuits

Class action lawsuits are filed on behalf of a group of people with the same or similar injuries allegedly caused by one or more defendant. The intent is to streamline the judicial process and save time and money by grouping similar cases together.

When the American public became aware of the terrible health effects of asbestos exposure in the late 1960s, class action lawsuits were a natural option to hold negligent companies accountable.

State and federal courts have their own rules for governing class actions, but most agree on the basics.

Class Action Lawsuit Characteristics

Mesothelioma class action lawsuits were typically filed against companies in the construction, shipbuilding, mining or manufacturing industries. These companies were liable because their executives knew about the risks of asbestos exposure but hid this information from workers and consumers.

As more asbestos-related claims piled in, however, it became clear that mesothelioma lawsuits are best handled on an individual basis.

Why Mesothelioma Class Actions No Longer Exist

Asbestos litigation is the longest-running mass tort in American history. But while the thousands of claims filed each year have a common theme — asbestos exposure — each case is unique.

Every patient diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease has a different story and unique circumstances that affect their case. This makes it problematic to group the cases together in class actions.

Class action lawsuits are better suited for groups with similar injuries and shared circumstances such as those affected by dangerous drugs, product defects or civil rights issues.

Notable Moments That Changed Asbestos Class Actions

1991: Consolidation of Federal Asbestos Cases

In 1991, the federal courts consolidated their asbestos cases into the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Since then, a special court known as MDL 875 has heard multidistrict asbestos litigation at the federal level.

1994: Georgine v. Amchem Products Inc.

In Georgine v. Amchem Products Inc., a group of asbestos-product manufacturers and plaintiffs’ attorneys sought to negotiate a settlement agreement. Their idea was to create a class solely for settlement purposes and set up a payment matrix to calculate payouts for present and future claims.

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals ultimately ruled against the plan. It determined class certification was inappropriate because the group of claimants was too large and their circumstances were too diverse.

1999: Ortiz v. Fibreboard Corp.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against certifying an asbestos class action lawsuit in Ortiz v. Fibreboard Corp. Federal courts generally uphold the precedent set by Georgine v. Amchem. Some state courts are more willing to certify class actions, but it is uncommon in asbestos litigation.

Benefits of Filing an Individual Mesothelioma Lawsuit

Most mesothelioma lawsuits are filed as personal injury claims or wrongful death claims. Compensation may also be available through asbestos trust funds, workers’ compensation or claims through the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Filing an individual asbestos lawsuit brings certain advantages over a class action suit, including:

It is best to consult an experienced mesothelioma attorney about your options for legal compensation. A qualified asbestos lawyer will focus on your individual circumstances.


Danielle DiPietro

Danielle DiPietro

As a Patient Advocate, Danielle DiPietro’s mission is to guide patients through the process of pleural mesothelioma treatment, ensuring they receive the best medical, financial and emotional support available. Danielle is accredited by the Department of Veterans Affairs as an official Claims Agent, allowing her to provide professional guidance to veterans and family members who need to file a claim for specialized VA benefits.

Last Modified July 12, 2019

3 Cited Article Sources

  1. Robreno, E. (2013). THE FEDERAL ASBESTOS PRODUCT LIABLITY MULTIDISTRICT LITIGATION (MDL-875): BLACK HOLE OR NEW PARADIGM? Retrieved from http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/files/robreno_v23i1.pdf
  2. U.S. Supreme Court. (1999). ORTIZ et al. v. FIBREBOARD CORP. et al. Retrieved from https://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/97-1704.ZS.html
  3. U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals. (1996). Georgine v. Amchem Prod Inc. Retrieved from https://digitalcommons.law.villanova.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1174&context=thirdcircuit_1996

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