Asbestos is a fibrous mineral that, when inhaled over a long period of time, results to fatal diseases. The most common asbestos-related disease is lung cancer, followed by mesothelioma. People working in heavy industries, such as manufacturing, and seafarers, have the highest risk of being exposed to huge amounts of asbestos and being diagnosed with, or dying from, mesothelioma. In some cases, because asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral, even people who are not employed in industries using asbestos but are living in asbestos-rich areas become victims to these fatal diseases. There is also an increasing number of so-called "take-home" cases or secondary exposure cases where wives or other family members are diagnosed with mesothelioma through continuous exposure to asbestos when washing their husbands' or family members' work clothes.
In the United States, asbestos litigation, particularly involving mesothelioma cases, shows no sign of slowing down as mesothelioma victims increasingly go to court, rather than settle, to litigate their claims for damages. In addition, asbestos litigation in the United States continue to develop as new case precedents lead to new types of plaintiffs and new types of asbestos exposure. Moreover, while asbestos-related personal injury claims against companies who used asbestos in their products are stabilizing, limitations imposed on the filing of claims against trust funds and the bankruptcy filings of numerous companies have induced plaintiffs to sue peripheral defendants. Furthermore, asbestos litigation is not limited to personal injuries arising from lung cancer or mesothelioma. Asbestos litigation arising from malignancies are also gaining popularity in state courts.
One of the complications in mesothelioma litigation is the variation of laws and rules from state to state. Courts constantly revise their trial docket to ease up the burgeoning of asbestos cases. Some courts make it easier for plaintiffs' firms to file cases while other courts don't. Other courts are also found to be more kind to plaintiffs, while other courts to defendants. Moreover, because of the huge number of asbestos litigation pending in different states, courts reach different conclusions that may or may not be applicable to another state. Even the determination of jurisdiction pose difficulty that may need the expertise of an attorney who is a specialist in asbestos litigation.
Discovery in asbestos cases is known to be exhaustive as plaintiffs need to prove they have been diagnosed with mesothelioma as a result of their occupation, and that their employers used asbestos-containing materials in their products or premises. Discovery is costly and so time-consuming that most mesothelioma victims die before their cases are concluded. One of the persistent issues presented in asbestos cases is whether companies owed a duty to warn its employees of the danger of asbestos contained in their products. Decisions on this question vary from state to state, and from court to court, adding more difficulty to the already-complex litigation. Another persistent issue presented in asbestos cases is the extent of a company's liability as to a person's personal injury. There are cases when a jury determines that only one company is liable, while there are cases when a jury determines that many companies are liable. Insurance coverage disputes further muddles asbestos litigation, bringing in more parties, and needing more expertise, to the case.