The timeline for mesothelioma lawsuits looks similar to that of any other lawsuit. The two sides in such cases include the plaintiffs, who are the mesothelioma victims, and the defendants, which are the product manufacturers or offending companies. The lawsuits include three major steps: discovery, settlements and trial.
Once each party is aware of the lawsuit, the discovery phase begins. During this period, each party may request documents and other evidence as well as subpoena witnesses. Each side swaps written questions that will be later used during depositions to further develop the case for both sides.
At the same time, the attorneys and support staff research all aspects of exposure to asbestos and its sources. This often means looking into the defendant's history. This step is probably the most extensive element of the entire timeline because it begins the day the plaintiff files the case and isn't usually over until the case settles or goes to trial.
The second point in the timeline is the settlement stage. For the plaintiff, the objective of this period is to receive fair compensation for the injuries. Most defendant companies don't want to endure the expense or exposure of going to trial, so they usually settle out of court before the trial date. This is typically the easier route for the plaintiff as well.
When agreeing on a settlement, the defendant typically makes concessions, and the plaintiff accepts. However, in some instances, the defendants are bankrupt, in which case the plaintiff's attorney can file claims directly to the trusts formed from the bankruptcies. In other cases, the defendants make the plaintiff sweat it out, waiting until the night before the trial or even the moment of opening statements to agree to a settlement. This actually happens fairly often, making it rare that a mesothelioma case will make it to trial. However, some do.
During a trial, a jury will hear the attorneys argue that the defendant is, or is not, guilty of causing the plaintiff's injuries. A jury will hear from doctors on both sides, arguing that the illness was or was not caused by something within the defendant's control.
In addition, the jury will also hear from plaintiff. The plaintiff usually takes the stand to describe the injuries, how they occurred, what the prognosis is and the extent of mesothelioma injuries. If the jury finds the defendant guilty, jury members must agree on the damages and award them to the plaintiff.
At that point, the court formally recognizes the outcome, and the mesothelioma lawsuit timeline is complete.