Filing Mesothelioma Lawsuits in Boston with Very Ill or Deceased Plaintiffs

In most personal injury lawsuits, the plaintiffs (victims) are able to fully participate in their case and appear at deposition or as a witness at trial. This is often true even in serious Boston personal injury lawsuits after plaintiff has undergone numerous surgeries and an extended hospital stay.  In Boston mesothelioma lawsuits, however, plaintiffs are very sick people who sadly for the most part will not survive the duration of a civil lawsuit filed in federal court or the Suffolk Superior Court. That does not mean such cases aren’t worth pursuing. We can often arrange an immediate deposition and thereafter minimize the involvement of the plaintiff. Even if plaintiff never personally sees the conclusion of the case, they are often still worth pursuing.

Mesothelioma lawsuits are about:

treatment mesothelioma

  • Ensuring your family/ loved ones are financial secure, given the fact that you have died an untimely death caused by someone else’s negligence that left you unable to continue your contributions;
  • Holding accountable those companies or individuals that profited by deceiving the public and concealing the known dangers of their product;
  • Being a lesson to other businesses and individuals about the price they will pay for marketing dangerous products.

Our dedicated attorneys for asbestos injury plaintiffs are committed to helping walk individuals and families through this difficult and sometimes confusing process. 

What to Do After Being Diagnosed with Malignant Mesothelioma in Boston

As discussed by the American Cancer Society, mesothelioma is typically diagnosed when a victim goes to a medical professional because they have started to experience painful symptoms, which often include at least one of the following:

  • Pain experienced in side of one’s back or chest
  • A feeling of shortness of breath
  • A chronic cough
  • Abnormal tiredness
  • Unintentional weightless – this can also be a symptom of many other serious medical conditions.
  • Difficulty swallowing similar to feeling like food is stuck in one’s esophagus
  • Loss of one’s voice – including partial hoarseness
  • Edema of arms and face

These are all symptoms of asbestos exposure, with fibers breathed into the lungs and possibly entering the chest cavity.  When asbestos occurs in the lungs, it is known as malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM), and this occurs in over 90 percent of the cases each year. However, it is important to understand malignant pleural mesothelioma is a distinct form of cancer from what we typically call lung cancer.

If the cancer occurs in the abdomen, it is called malignant peritoneal mesothelioma and it includes the following symptoms:

  • Pain in abdominal region
  • Edema in abdominal region
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Severe Constipation

While there are many symptoms of both types of malignant mesothelioma, the issue is the time in which asbestos metastasizes into the deadly form of cancer and how long it takes for a person to present with one or more of these symptoms.  On average, it takes between 20 and 50 years for a person to develop noticeable symptoms of malignant mesothelioma, with most cases falling on the higher end of this range of years. This means most mesothelioma plaintiffs will not know they are sick until around 40 years after they are exposed. By the time a Boston mesothelioma plaintiff goes to his or her doctor to find out what is wrong, they are often told they have end stage cancer and are told what treatment options exists.

Whether or not a patient decides to undergo treatment is not an easy decision to make as treatments will not cure mesothelioma and will cause severe pain and discomfort in many cases. While this is a decision which sh0uld be made with assistance of an oncologist, what plaintiffs definitely should do is to speak with an experienced Boston mesothelioma attorney as soon as possible.

Developing Proof of Asbestos Exposure and Naming Proper Defendants

Mesothelioma is – with a reasonable degree of medical certainty –  always caused by exposure to deadly asbestos fibers. Because mesothelioma is always caused by asbestos, proving causation is not generally an issue. However, the problem is establishing which defendant actually manufactured the asbestos that resulted in plaintiff’s diagnosis. This is often made more difficult when a plaintiff is very ill. Because we know this is an issue that arises in almost every case, our mesothelioma attorneys start by compiling a complete list of everywhere plaintiff lived and worked throughout the course of their lives. This is much easier to do in cases where plaintiff is still living.  It is also a good idea to speak with any family members and former co-workers to see if they are also experiencing the same issues, or if they can fill in any gaps in the occupational and residential history of plaintiff. Time is often of the essence.

We do understand that in many cases, a plaintiff will be too sick to participate in his or her civil lawsuit. Other times, they may be deceased before a case is commenced or concluded. In these situations, a person who is designated as next of friend of decent can file or takeover a case on behalf of actual plaintiff.  This is what happens in many Boston mesothelioma lawsuits, with plaintiff often being the surviving spouse or adult child of decedent.

Fox v. Superior Court

In Fox v. Superior Court, plaintiff filed an asbestos injury lawsuit in which she named 18 defendants.  At time of filing, plaintiff was 81-years-old and diagnosed with end-stage malignant mesothelioma.  She alleged her exposure occurred between the mid 1950s and mid 1960s.  Plaintiff’s attorneys were concerned she would not survive to actively participate in her lawsuit if it did not get fast-tracked and they moved to have it fast-tracked under a relevant state statute.

When they made this request, it was done through filing a motion, and only 2 of 18 defendant’s decided to file a motion to oppose her request.  They likely did not oppose because doing so might look to bad to a reasonable judge. However, in this case, trial judge refused to expedite her case and denied her motion to fast track.  At this point, plaintiff filed an interlocutory appeal to the court of appeals. Normally an appeal is only allowed following a final judgment, but interlocutory appeals are permitted in cases where there is a real urgency.

On appeal, appellate judges concluded plaintiff had met her burden and had shown good cause for fast-tracking the case and reversed trial court’s denial of plaintiff’s motion with direction to hold a trial within 120 of its order.

Again, this is not to say plaintiff could not proceed after named plaintiff was deceased, but it would require a next of friend to open an estate in name of decedent and it would require decedent’s estate administrator (personal representative) to file appropriate pleadings with the trial court to take over the case. This would still make things more difficult, so any depositions should probably be taken as soon as possible, and those depositions should probably be recorded on video so a jury would get a chance to see what plaintiff actually looked like when suffering from this horrible and deadly disease.

If you or a loved one is diagnosed with mesothelioma in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at 1-888-367-2900.

Additional Resources:

Fox v. Superior Court, March 20, 2018, California Court of Appeal

More Blog Entries:
Montana Settles Asbestos Claims for $25M, Feb. 19, 2017, Boston Mesothelioma Lawyer Blog