Mesothelioma Victims Advocate for Change to Indiana Law

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, 55 to 70 people in Indiana die each year from the rare asbestos cancer mesothelioma. Now, several victims of the disease are on a mission to amend a state law concerning the statute of limitations for filing lawsuits against those who knowingly exposed them to the disease.

Mesothelioma is a cancer which is almost exclusively linked to exposure to the carcinogenic, yet widely used, building material asbestos. An issue is the fact that although mesothelioma has an extremely long latency period the disease may not manifest itself and become symptomatic until 50 years after the initial exposure to asbestos an Indiana Supreme Court ruling on that state’s law gives patients only 10 years after exposure, not diagnosis, to file a lawsuit. The amended law would provide for suits to be initiated up to two years after diagnosis. Once diagnosed, mesothelioma has usually reached the end stages, and patients typically see a life expectancy of only six months to two years. Mesothelioma’s ties to asbestos mean that individuals who labored in factories, construction site, shipyards, oil refineries and other industrial plants during the mid-twentieth century could only now be showing signs of the disease. Further complicating matters is the fact that mesothelioma symptoms can mimic symptoms of other diseases, and so such non-specific indicators as cough, chest pain and breathing difficulties may be the only clue a patient and his or her doctor have that the cancer might have developed. Although there is no known cure for the disease, palliative measures can be taken to ease a patient’s pain and improve their breathing function. Advocates for the amendment to Indiana state law, some of whom had lost loved ones to mesothelioma and some of whom had themselves been stricken by the disease, testified this week before a legislative committee. The proposal was debated in the last legislative session but not acted upon. Democratic Rep. Linda Lawson of Hammond, who is chair of the courts commission, stated that it would undoubtedly resurface during the next session, which begins in January.