Asbestos is a known carcinogen and the only proven cause of mesothelioma. There’s no amount of asbestos exposure that’s known to be safe. However, it can take years for such exposure to lead to cancer. And though someone may be responsible for that exposure—and your cancer—how can you prove it years or decades later?
That’s a question the California Supreme Court recently tackled indirectly. While reversing an appellate court decision, the Supreme Court said the testimony one foreman offered was enough circumstantial evidence to move forward.
Do you have enough evidence to win?
Mesothelioma victims who want to seek justice against those who exposed them to asbestos face many challenges. One of those is the fact they may not develop the disease for decades after the exposure. That means there’s a good chance they may not have the same hard evidence they’d have right after a more immediate cause of injury, such as a car accident.
However, the California Supreme Court gave one victim and his wife the chance to take their case before a jury even though the most direct evidence had been destroyed years before.
The victim was a man who had worked as a pipe layer and claimed that he’d contracted his disease after being exposed to pipes made with asbestos. The receipts for the pipes no longer existed, but the pipe layer’s foreman believed he knew the company that had made the pipes. The foreman testified that he remembered the company’s logo on its receipts.
The court’s decision to allow such circumstantial evidence to stand was critically important. To claim reimbursement from the pipe manufacturer, the victim needed to prove there was a connection. Of course, the pipe manufacturer would seek to deny any connection, and the lack of physical receipts or invoices could work in their favor. But by allowing the case to move forward, the California Supreme Court ensured the victim and his wife had a shot at justice.
It may have also given hope to thousands of other victims who were unsure they had enough proof to win their cases. The ruling may prevent other courts from dismissing cases due to a lack of hard evidence. It may allow more victims to present their case to a jury, and others may push for better settlements from companies that might otherwise have tried to get their cases dismissed.
The challenges can be overcome
As much as anything, the recent ruling may serve as a good reminder that the law is always in motion. The underlying principles carry forward, but the courts may introduce new precedent. The science may become more refined. People are still learning new things about the dangers of asbestos exposure.
This means victims may not fully understand the strength of their case until they consult an attorney. Experienced attorneys who remain active with mesothelioma cases can help people better understand the strength of their cases and the values of their claims.