California Mesothelioma Settlements

California Mesothelioma Settlements and Compensation

Under the provisions of California’s mesothelioma and asbestos laws, a mesothelioma victim can pursue financial compensation from an asbestos employer or company in California. Mainly, compensation ensues in one of two ways: the victim can win a jury verdict directing the liable employer or company to pay damages, or the victim can receive a settlement out of court from the entity responsible for their injury.

A mesothelioma settlement is a legally binding agreement between a mesothelioma victim and the party whose action or inaction caused their illness. It aims to compensate the injured person and release the liable party from any ongoing or future litigation as regards the matter. Most times, mesothelioma victims will obtain a settlement award before filing a lawsuit. Victims and at-fault parties often prefer this approach because it offers both sides a quicker and less costly way to resolve a case. Nevertheless, court proceedings will have already begun for some before settlement becomes a viable option.

The dollar amount a mesothelioma claimant receives as compensation usually differs from what another would receive, given that several factors are considered in estimating the sum. Some of these factors include the severity of the disease, number of dependents, age of the victim, number of defendants, the extent of an asbestos company's negligence, etc. Regardless, the payout will cover actual expenses like lost wages and treatment costs and non-measurable losses like pain and suffering, disfigurement, and the loss of a normal life.

Types of Mesothelioma Compensation in California

Mesothelioma patients and loved ones may seek compensation for their injuries or losses under California law. This right exists because of the massive corporate cover-up that occurred some decades ago, in which many asbestos manufacturers and sellers hid information about the harmful health effects of asbestos from employees and consumers.

Monetary compensation helps patients lessen the significant financial burden that arises from a mesothelioma diagnosis. It also allows them to get justice against negligent companies and secure financial support for their families.

In California, mesothelioma victims have more than one way to retrieve compensation from a liable entity. The three main avenues available to victims are lawsuits, settlements, and asbestos trust funds.

  • Mesothelioma Lawsuits & Settlements
    Victims of mesothelioma can file personal injury suits and wrongful death suits against asbestos manufacturers or sellers. The choice of which lawsuit to file depends on a victim's vital status, i.e., if the individual is still alive or deceased. Thus, a living victim of mesothelioma can receive a monetary award for their medical costs, pain and suffering, and other related expenditures or losses by filing a personal injury lawsuit. Meanwhile, the family member or estate of a deceased victim can file a wrongful death suit to obtain compensation for the death of their loved one. In various cases, persons who file a mesothelioma lawsuit can recover exemplary damages (commonly known as punitive damages) under Cal. Civ. Code § 3294.
    As with other lawsuits, mesothelioma victims only have a limited time (one year) to submit a personal injury or wrongful death claim to a California court. After filing a claim, a judge and jury will decide a defendant's liability in a court trial, or the affected parties will arrange a settlement outside the court system.
    It is often by an out-of-court settlement that a mesothelioma lawsuit comes to its natural end. This is because many defendants will rather sidestep a prolonged judicial process, and most claimants will not want to risk leaving court with a less-than-satisfactory award or, worse, empty-handed.

  • Asbestos Trust Funds
    Besides filing a lawsuit, a mesothelioma claimant may obtain a settlement from a company's asbestos trust fund. The origins of asbestos trust funds date back to the 1970s. During that period, a lot of U.S. companies (some operating out of California) had taken part in the mining, production, and sale of asbestos-based products. Many had also participated in the asbestos industry cover-up in favor of profit.
    The result upon widespread discovery that asbestos is a human carcinogen was a surge in personal injury suits filed against those companies, which inevitably led most of them to declare bankruptcy by the 1980s. One condition for filing for bankruptcy, however, was that the bankrupt companies set aside funds to pay present and future victims of asbestos-related diseases, like mesothelioma.
    Hence, a victim of mesothelioma today can file a claim with an asbestos trust fund to get financial support for their disability. A legal claim against an asbestos trust fund is not a lawsuit and is often processed without judicial interference.

Outside of a lawsuit or claim against an asbestos trust fund, specific victims can receive additional financial help by filing certain types of claims. This includes a veterans' claim, workers' compensation, or health insurance claim (insurance coverage may pay medical expenses or death benefits).

Mesothelioma victims who were directly employed by an asbestos company and injured in the workplace may qualify to file a workers' compensation claim.

On the other hand, a veterans' claim can be filed by a former member of the U.S. armed forces who was exposed to asbestos during service and subsequently diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease. Notably, several veterans who file with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are retired servicemen and women of the U.S. Navy, who got exposed due to the massive use of asbestos materials in U.S. Navy ships.

By filing a veterans' claim, an ex-service member diagnosed with mesothelioma or their family member can receive monthly compensation benefits from the VA. Mesothelioma patients who receive these benefits from the VA can still pursue legal action in court, but they cannot sue the U.S. military or government. Sick individuals who were dishonorably discharged may not be eligible to claim veteran benefits.

Some government programs, such as Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), may also be available to mesothelioma victims as sources of additional financial assistance for their debilitating illness.

Notable Lawsuit Verdicts in California

Since the 1970s, countless mesothelioma lawsuits have been filed in California. Because of these filings, the state court system has rendered a slew of verdicts to compensate people whose mesothelioma diagnosis stemmed from an asbestos employer's or company's negligent actions. A majority of these lawsuit verdicts amount to a considerable sum in damages. Below are some notable mesothelioma verdicts so far:

$26.5 million

In 2021, a jury in Oakland, Alameda County awarded over $26,500,000 in damages to a 34-year-old preschool teacher in a personal injury lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson and Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. The former teacher claimed she developed mesothelioma through daily use of J&J's talcum baby powder since 1986. The total award comprised $20,000,000 in damages for pain and suffering, $6,472,967 in economic damages, and $100,000 in punitive damages. (Christina Prudencio v. Johnson & Johnson et al., Alameda County Super. Ct. No. RG20061303.)

$34 million

In 2019, a former mechanic and mesothelioma patient, Arther Putt, secured a verdict against Ford Motor Company in Los Angeles, California. The plaintiff claimed that he was repeatedly exposed to asbestos fibers while performing work at service stations in Southern California and Indiana during the late 1960s and '70s.

The total verdict won by Arthur Putt and his attorneys was $34,000,000. It included $25,500,000 in punitive damages and $8,500,000 in damages ($4,500,000 compensatory damages to Arthur Putt and $4,000,000 loss of consortium to his wife). (Arthur Putt and Janet Putt v. CBS Corporation, et al., Los Angeles County Super. Ct. No. 18STCV06912.)

$32.8 million

In 2016, a California jury sitting in Los Angeles County found the defendant American Optical Corporation liable for intentionally manufacturing defective respiratory equipment, which led a 62-year-old former machinist Louis William Tyler (the plaintiff) to develop mesothelioma.

The total verdict comprised $22,800,000 in compensatory damages to the plaintiff and his wife Becky Tyler, and $10,000,000 in punitive damages against the American Optical Corporation. This was the first time that punitive damages were assessed against the American Optical Corporation for the sale of bad respirators. (William and Becky Tyler v. American Optical Corporation, Los Angeles County Super. Ct. No. BC588866.)

$70.8 million

In 2014, an Alameda County jury assessed $70,861,113 in damages for plaintiffs Robert and Linda Whalen against John Crane Inc., a manufacturer of asbestos packing and gasket materials.

Robert Whalen, a former machinist mate & nuclear inspector, claimed that he worked with asbestos products manufactured by John Crane Inc during his service aboard U.S. Navy nuclear submarines. The company failed to advise consumers on the potential hazards of asbestos, which resulted in Robert Whalen using the products throughout his 26 years in service (1964–1990), and later receiving a diagnosis for pleural mesothelioma in 2013. The jury approved $40,000,000 in non-economic damages for Robert Whalen, $30,000,000 in loss of consortium damages for the wife, and $861,113 in economic damages. (Robert and Linda Whalen v. John Crane Inc., Alameda County Super. Ct. No. RG14711964.)

$11 million

A wrongful death claim filed in 2014 by the wife and daughters of a deceased 68-year-old automotive parts man led a jury sitting in Alameda County to return an $11,000,000 million verdict. The damages assessed were $6,000,000 for the wife and $2,500,000 each for the daughters. (Emily Bankhead, Tammy Bankhead, and Debbie Bankhead Meiers v. ArvinMeritor, Inc., et al., Alameda County Super. Ct. No. RG12632899.)

$208.8 million

In 2010, a jury in Los Angeles County approved $200,000,000 in punitive damages and $8,821,015 in compensatory damages in a second-hand asbestos exposure lawsuit. The plaintiff, a woman aged 71, alleged to have contracted mesothelioma from inhaling asbestos fibers from her husband's clothing. (Rhoda Evans, et al. v. A.W. Chesterton Co., et al., Los Angeles County Super. Ct No. BC418867.)

Average Mesothelioma Settlement in California

It can be quite difficult to estimate the average settlement that a mesothelioma victim can receive in California, given that many variables influence the settlement award in each case, and such information is not always readily made public (unlike lawsuit verdicts).

One reason attorneys and law firms may conceal the amount obtained in a mesothelioma settlement is to protect plaintiffs' financial information. Meanwhile, defendants may refrain from publicizing their last settlement offer to prevent other interested parties from knowing how much was paid to a patient or family member.

Nevertheless, because mesothelioma has profound health implications, the average settlement that a victim receives often comprises several hundreds of thousands of dollars, but it can total $1 million or more.

Some law firms report settlement amounts on their websites. Hence, victims searching for legal representation can access a firm's website to view past settlement awards obtained for other clients. As stated earlier, not all law firms will publish this information, so it may be necessary to sit down with one's preferred firm or attorney to determine what can be obtained as compensation based on the facts of a case.

How are Mesothelioma Settlements Paid in California

A mesothelioma settlement occurs when a sued asbestos company or employer pays a negotiated sum of money to a victim to withdraw the lawsuit. This sort of compensation happens during the litigation process and can occur before or during a trial upon the parties' private agreement. Many mesothelioma lawsuits filed in California are resolved by settlement, as it is much faster than a jury verdict and less risky than a trial.

Typically, the settlement process is initiated with a formal offer from the defendant (i.e., the entity responsible for a mesothelioma victim's asbestos exposure). Subsequently, negotiations will be carried out by the attorneys of the plaintiff (the mesothelioma victim) and the defendant. The plaintiff's attorney's role lies in determining if the defendant's initial settlement offer is adequate and advising the plaintiff on whether to take the offer, propose a counteroffer, or continue proceedings in court.

The time it takes until a victim receives a settlement varies by case, as it is determined by how quickly both sides can agree to the payout (and parties may go through multiple rounds of negotiations). However, this period does not extend beyond a year.

In California, mesothelioma settlements are binding under the law. For this reason, a plaintiff can pursue legal action if a defendant fails to pay the negotiated amount within the agreed time.

Settlement payments can be made to a mesothelioma victim as a lump sum or structured settlement. A victim who opts for the former will get the full settlement in a single payment. Meanwhile, those who prefer structured settlement will receive payment in monthly installments over a specified period. Typically, the payment goes through the victim's attorney, who will collect their contingency fee, explain the payout options, and advise the victim on which portion of the settlement is taxable.

Mesothelioma Settlements After Death in California

Individuals who lost a family member to malignant mesothelioma may obtain a settlement award from the companies that caused their loved one's death. Only certain family members have standing (i.e., eligibility) to be compensated under Section 377.60 of the California Code of Civil Procedure. They include spouses, parents, children, siblings, and persons who are at least half financially dependent on the deceased.

The procedure to collect settlement follows that specified in the previous section, whereby the surviving family member would work with an attorney to prepare and file a lawsuit—in this case, a wrongful death suit. During the legal proceedings that ensue, perhaps after the discovery process, the defendant may present the bereaved family member or their attorney with a settlement offer.

A mesothelioma settlement can provide financial support to a victim's family by helping them pay medical bills, funeral expenses, and other outstanding costs. It can also offer long-lasting financial security for the family. Furthermore, per a recent California law, families of deceased mesothelioma patients can also receive compensation for pain, suffering, or disfigurement.

Receiving a mesothelioma settlement after death may not prevent a family member from pursuing other forms of compensation. For example, veteran benefits if the decedent served in the U.S. Army and contracted the disease during their service.

Understandably, filing a wrongful death claim, negotiating a settlement, or processing other benefits after a loved one's death may be emotionally draining on families. As such, it is advisable to hire a reputable lawyer or law firm to handle the legal process.

Mesothelioma Settlement Taxes

Under federal law, mesothelioma settlements are generally non-taxable. Per Section 104 of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Code, mesothelioma settlements from personal injuries or ailments are exempt from taxation. A simple way of looking at it is that when one's settlement award is directly connected to a mesothelioma diagnosis or illness (for example, compensation for past and present medical bills), the recipient will likely not be required to pay taxes.

However, certain amounts of money which may constitute a settlement are taxable, such as compensation for lost wages and the interest earned on a mesothelioma settlement paid out in installments. Furthermore, if somehow punitive damages are awarded to the claimant, that amount is always taxable.

Taxation on a mesothelioma settlement is a complicated issue. Therefore, in determining which portion of a mesothelioma settlement is subject to taxation, an individual should speak to their attorney, who will provide insight into what is taxable and what is not.

Mesothelioma Claims Calculator

Generally, claims calculators (sometimes called compensation calculators) are free web-based tools that estimate the amount of compensation a person may receive for an injury or loss they sustained. In most cases, a mesothelioma claims calculator can be found on the websites of law firms, often those based outside the United States.

Law firms in the U.S. hardly provide these calculators on their websites and prefer to give compensation estimates on an individual basis, according to the specifics of a case. Mesothelioma victims in California who wish to determine how much their case is worth must usually contact their preferred law firm or attorney directly.

Mesothelioma Workers Compensation in California

Mesothelioma patients who qualify to file for workers' compensation in California are those whose asbestos exposure occurred on the job, whose employers carry workers' compensation insurance, and who were directly employed by the company responsible for their exposure.

Any workers' compensation claim brought in California must meet the state's statute of limitations. The state legislature specifies one year from the date of injury to submit a claim to the Workers' Compensation Division. However, because of the latency period of mesothelioma (20 to 40 years before first symptoms), few victims would ever qualify to obtain such compensation. Fortunately, Cal. Labor Code § 5412 allows for cumulative injuries or occupational diseases. Under the law, the following timeline may apply to mesothelioma patients:

  • The date upon which the victim first suffered disability and either knew or should have known that their present or past employment caused such disability.

Detailed information on filing a workers' compensation claim in California can be retrieved from the Workers' Compensation Division's website. It is also in a victim's best interests to work with an experienced attorney on the case.

One important piece of information that all potential claimants should note is that, contrary to other claims, filing a workers' compensation claim disqualifies a person from suing their employer in court. In addition, the amount recoverable only covers some medical bills and partial wages. It does not include punitive damages or damages for pain and suffering.

California Asbestos Trust Funds

California asbestos trust funds were established to provide compensation to individuals who have been exposed to asbestos and have developed diseases like mesothelioma. Trust funds are typically funded by the companies that manufacture or use asbestos-containing products.

Victims of asbestos exposure and their loved ones may be eligible for compensation from an asbestos trust fund. An experienced mesothelioma lawyer can help them navigate the process and ensure that they receive the maximum amount of payment to which they are entitled.