Understanding, Managing, and Living with the

Health Effects of Asbestos

In Some Asbestosis Lawsuits, It’s Never Too Late

May 28, 2015

Philadelphia, PA Proof positive that it’s never too late for plaintiffs seeking asbestosis compensation, the Third Circuit earlier this month mandated a district court in Pennsylvania to revisit a ruling in an asbestosis lawsuit that originally went against the plaintiffs in the late 1990s. The thrust of the ruling is that the plaintiffs’ original claims alleging asbestosis diseases should be revisited given that the plaintiffs developed lung cancer later on.

A caveat, however: it is indeed too late for two of the three asbestosis compensation plaintiffs, as they have since died. Their estates carry on in their memory. A third plaintiff survives, but is stricken with lung cancer.

The ruling by the Third Circuit applies to an original ruling made by a Pennsylvania district court related to multidistrict litigation regarding asbestos-related diseases allegedly tied to defendant Georgia-Pacific LLC (GP). The district court blocked the three plaintiffs from making supplemental claims against the defendant given the onset of lung cancer after the fact. In the Third Circuit’s view, it was wrong for the district court to block those claims.

According to court documents, the cases were originally filed in 1997 and 1999 at Illinois federal court prior to their transfer to Pennsylvania and consolidation as part of the asbestosis MDL.

The asbestosis disease case remains complicated nonetheless. There is the matter of the two-year statute of limitations observed by Illinois, and whether the claims are barred. The Third Circuit didn’t venture into that one. There were also questions as to why the three plaintiffs allowed for such a long period of time to pass before bringing their updated allegations and amendments that their respective lung cancers were tied to products manufactured by GP.

According to court records, the three plaintiffs had submitted medical records reflecting their lung cancer diagnoses for discovery orders in 2007 and 2009. A district judge awarded GP partial summary judgment in March of 2013, noting that plaintiffs had failed to amend or even attempt to amend their complaints prior to the cases reaching the stage of summary judgment.

A pivotal aspect of the Third Circuit’s decision appears to be the unanimous vacating by the appellate panel of an application by US District Court Judge Eduardo C. Robreno prohibiting the changing of a court’s schedule without sufficient and defensible reason. The judge had also removed the asbestosis cancer-related claims from the lawsuit when the partial summary judgment was granted in 2013.

Many an asbestosis attorney has said this appellate ruling is good news for federal asbestosis claim cases, and will allow subsequent amendments to be filed.

The cases are In re: Asbestos Products Liability Litigation, case numbers 13-2087, 13-2088, 13-2090, 14-1235, 14-1755 and 14-1756, in the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.