Like many other mesothelioma victims, after receiving his terminal diagnosis 82-year-old Alfonso Rocciola filed a personal injury lawsuit against the companies that exposed him to asbestos. But his claim died when he did because under California law the damages he would have won were not available to his survivors. That injustice has been resolved with the passage of new state law that will allow family members to collect “pain and suffering” damages, even after their loved one has died.
Laws Prohibiting Posthumous Damages Impact Mesothelioma Victim’s Families
Prior to passage of Senate Bill 447, California was one of only a few states that prohibit posthumous damages to survivors of mesothelioma victims and others whose deaths are deemed negligent. Similar laws remain on the books in Florida, Idaho, Colorado, and Arizona, largely as a result of lobbying by insurance companies that wanted to minimize the amount that they pay out.
The laws have been particularly difficult for those diagnosed with mesothelioma, an aggressive form of cancer with extremely short survival times. Asbestos companies have successfully limited their liability by dragging out court proceedings until victims died. According to a member of Consumer Attorneys of California, “A wrongdoer should not get a financial benefit if their victim dies before they have to compensate them.”
Current Law Means that When Mesothelioma Victims Die, So Do Their Claims
Mr. Rocciola’s mesothelioma diagnosis followed decades of supervising construction projects in the San Francisco area. He filed suit in hopes that the companies responsible would be assessed damages and his family would be taken care of after he was gone. Unfortunately, he died before the trial began.
The new law will take effect in January of 2022, but even though it has been signed it will not benefit any mesothelioma victims who die between now and then. It will only be in effect for four years.
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with a terminal disease like malignant mesothelioma, there is help available to you. For information, contact the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net at 1-800-692-8608.