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Louisiana Court Rules on "Loss of Enjoyment" in Mesothelioma Lawsuit

Oct 9, 2007
"Loss of enjoyment of life" is one of the damages for which plaintiffs can recover compensation from a defendant in personal injury cases. Generally, courts hold that loss of enjoyment of life is part of general damages, since it's difficult to put a monetary value on such an intangible asset. However, in 2006 the Louisiana Supreme Court made a ruling in a mesothelioma lawsuit that may make a difference to that. In the case McGee vs. A C and S, Inc, the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled that "loss of enjoyment of life is recoverable as a separate element of general damages that may be included as a separate item on a jury verdict form".

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that has only one known cause - exposure to asbestos. The history of asbestos in the United States is a tragic and sordid one that highlights the greed of the corporate world and its disregard for the health and safety of its customers and employees. In one mesothelioma lawsuit after another, juries and judges heard how the defendants - which included some of the wealthiest and most successful companies in the country - conspired to cover up the dangers of asbestos and hide it even from the workers who were in contact with the deadly substance on a daily basis.

In more than one case, companies hired consultants or researchers to study the prevalence of lung diseases and cancer in employees, then ignored the conclusions and recommendations made by their own experts. Many companies employed their own company doctors to do physicals and examinations, and at least one instructed those doctors to conceal medical problems related to asbestos, even from those patients who showed symptoms.

It was that blatant disregard for the public and employees that has justified the large awards made by juries in mesothelioma lawsuits. The large awards are further justified by the simple fact that treating mesothelioma takes an enormous toll, financially, physically and in ways that are not so easy to define monetarily, on the entire family of the victim.

The subject of compensation for mesothelioma victims has been a hotly debated one for years, and is at the basis of the disputes about national reforms and funds that would make "fair" payments to those who suffered losses because of their exposure to asbestos. Many of the proposals aim not to compensate the victims but to protect the villains. The per person award suggested by the latest Congressional bill for asbestos litigation reform, for instance, may not even be sufficient to cover medical expenses incurred by those with active mesothelioma.

Under the current system, compensation for losses due to asbestos exposure is decided on a case by case basis, either by a judge or jury, or by negotiations between the lawyers for the plaintiffs and defendants before trial. Many of the proposed "solutions" would eliminate the option for individuals to be awarded compensation based on their actual losses and expected expenses, relying instead on a "schedule of awards" that would pay out a flat amount to claimants based on their diagnosis.

Factors that may be considered when compensation is considered in mesothelioma lawsuits include medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering and loss of consort. For a parent, they may include loss of support to the minor children and loss of moral support. Each of these items can be listed separately as a line item in a jury ballot so that juries may vote on whether it has been proven that the loss was suffered and was the fault of the defendant and at what level it should be compensated.

It is these minute distinctions that have become a large part of mesothelioma lawsuits, because every little detail has the potential for becoming a new flood of litigation for the defendants. If one plaintiff is awarded loss of enjoyment of life damages, it sets a precedent for cases further down the road.

In Louisiana, those precedents will be tested still further in the coming years. It is strongly suspected that the destruction caused by Katrina, and the resulting demolition and clean-up efforts, will expose thousands more to friable asbestos - the single known cause of mesothelioma. Will it result in an upsurge of mesothelioma cases in a decade or twenty years? Only time will tell.

In the meantime, Louisiana already has one of the highest rates of mesothelioma diagnoses in the nation, in large part because of the oil and shipping industries. The two industries were among the largest users of asbestos in daily maintenance, and exposure to asbestos was high for many of those in both industries. If you worked in the oil or shipping industry, or in a power plant, factory or mine of any type, or if you believe you were exposed to asbestos, contact a top Louisiana mesothelioma lawyer to find out what your rights are in regards to compensation for your injuries.
About the Author
Nick Johnson is lead counsel with Johnson Law Group. Johnson represents plaintiffs in many states and focuses on injury cases involving Fen-Phen and PPH, Paxil, Mesothelioma and Nursing Home Abuse. Call Nick Johnson at 1-888-311-5522 or visit http://www.johnsonlawgroup.com
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