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Victims of mesothelioma may also be victims of stall tactics

Victims of asbestos-related diseases have a right to hold those responsible for their condition accountable. The sooner that happens, however, the better the outcome may be. An unfortunate reality of the legal process is that it can take time for personal injury cases to work their way through the system. Lawyers defending companies charged with negligence may use additional stalling tactics in an attempt to save themselves money. Recently, a man tragically and needlessly passed away just minutes after he finished answering questions from the defense. Was this their goal?

The 69-year-old man was in great health before discovering that he had developed malignant mesothelioma. The aggressive lung disease acted fast and his condition worsened quickly and considerably. With his family members supporting him, the man sued 44 companies who he felt were responsible for his condition.

Lawyers for the companies were relentless in their pursuit to delay the trials. They dragged out questioning, asking the visibly weak man the same questions over and over. Despite the recommendation from the man's doctor that he should only participate in 12 hours of depositions, a judge allowed the companies more than twice that. Even though the man was determined to complete his role in the hearing, his condition significantly worsened throughout the strenuous schedule.

Only 40 minutes after the man finished answering questions, he collapsed. He passed away the very next day. The man's family believes that this is exactly what the defense lawyers wanted. By dragging out the litigation process, they effectively outlasted the terminally ill man. When he died, so did claims that were filed for pain and suffering, as well as for mental anguish and bodily disfigurement. Essentially, the potential amount of money he could have been awarded was reduced by 70 percent.

If true, these tactics are unconscionable. As it is, many factors can contribute to the difficulty of these trials. Because victims of asbestos can be awarded very large sums of money, defense attorneys will go a long way to limit their company's liability. Those who are seeking compensation for injuries and illnesses caused by asbestos deserve to have an equally aggressive team behind them.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Mesothelioma victims deserve better than wasteful legal maneuvers," Michael Hiltzik, April 22, 2012

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