Asbestosis and mesothelioma are two separate and distinct conditions that can occur from the same exposure to deadly asbestos fibers. Asbestosis is known to be more of a chronic condition, while mesothelioma is more aggressive and also undoubtedly terminal. In some jurisdictions, courts have allowed for a separate cause of action with each diagnosis, as asbestosis sometimes (but not always) precedes mesothelioma.
Recently, a federal court in Missouri became one to explicitly reject this “two-injury” rule. According to The St. Louis Record, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District rejected the claims by plaintiffs who asserted wrongful death damages as a result of asbestos exposure suffered by their father. Plaintiffs were suing an Irish company called Ingersoll-Rand, an industrial manufacturing company, alleging their father’s exposure to the deadly fibers occurred when he worked as a civilian marine machinist for the U.S. Navy in Boston, Mass. in the last 1950s and early 1960s. He was the original plaintiff, but when he died, his daughters took over his legal action.
The father’s personal injury claims for asbestos exposure leading to asbestosis were filed in a Massachusetts state court, but ended in summary judgment favoring the defendant in 2009. Plaintiff then filed a separate action for mesothelioma after he received that diagnosis. Defendants sought to have the mesothelioma lawsuit dismissed on the basis of the common law doctrine of collateral estoppel, which essentially prevents a person from re-litigating the same issue. Continue reading