Both plaintiffs and defendants in asbestos lawsuits agree that asbestos causes 80 to 90 percent of all mesothelioma cases. You would think that it naturally follows that 80 to 90 percent of mesothelioma lawsuit plaintiffs do not have to prove to a jury that asbestos exposure caused their mesothelioma. Until recently, that was not the case. Instead, through a legal process called reverse bifurcation, most if not all mesothelioma lawsuit plaintiffs had to first prove in court that their mesothelioma diagnosis is tied to past asbestos exposure. Once this was proved – and it usually was — most cases settled out of court.
Now, as reported by the Legal Intelligencer, after nearly a quarter of a century of trying asbestos lawsuits with reverse bifurcation, the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court’s mass torts program for asbestos began “straight-through trials” of asbestos cases in which it is uncontested that plaintiffs have mesothelioma because of asbestos exposure.
“Straight through trial” basically means that the plaintiffs do not first have to prove to the court – with documents and records and other evidence – that asbestos exposure caused their mesothelioma. Instead, the court takes for granted that it did, in which case most lawsuits settle out of court. So far though, even those that have gone through to trial have ended favorably for plaintiffs. One such mesothelioma patient and his family won $4.5 million in a recent trial verdict.
It’s good news for mesothelioma victims and not so good news for some defendants who make or have made asbestos-containing products. Examples of companies that had ready defenses to disprove asbestos exposure from their products as the cause of mesothelioma in a plaintiff include break pad manufacturers and insulation companies. These defendants would use reverse bifurcation to fight off taking responsibility for the victim’s illness. Hopefully, more states will follow PA’s lead on this.
If you or a loved one has suffered from asbestos exposure and later developed mesothelioma, call an asbestos attorney at Sokolove Law today for a free consultation.