When Edward Richards was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma at the age of 72, he and his wife filed a lawsuit against 105 defendants, accusing them of exposing him to asbestos and seeking compensatory and punitive damages. With his physician predicting he had just six months to live, his case was expedited. He submitted written discovery and opened himself to deposition questioning by the defendants. One of them, Cahill Construction Company, argued that they needed more time than the law allows under circumstances where the plaintiff is so ill. They petitioned the court for more time, and when the court denied their request they filed suit, claiming that the limitation on deposition time violated their due process rights.
Court of Appeals Denies Asbestos Company’s Motion
In its flat denial of Cahill Construction’s petition, the Court of Appeals of California said that the language surrounding testimony time for mesothelioma victims was “unambiguous.” They pointed out that the arguments the company was putting forward were identical to those considered and rejected by the California state legislature when they had first enacted the law protecting these victims.
The law that the asbestos company was trying to circumvent caps the amount of time that a plaintiff may be deposed when two conditions are met: the civil action must be “for injury or illness that results in mesothelioma” and a licensed physician must have declared that the plaintiff “suffers from mesothelioma … raising substantial medical doubt of their survival beyond six months.” Mr. Richards met both of these conditions, which meant that no more than seven hours could be allocated to testimony, with an additional seven hours allowed at the court’s discretion if more than 20 defendants appeared at trial. Mr. Richards testified for 14 hours, but Cahill Construction demanded more, and sued the court to get it.
Judges Point to Tendency to Harass Mesothelioma Plaintiffs
In handing down their ruling, the court pointed out that all of the arguments that Cahill was making had been considered when the original law had passed. They also pointed out that the legislature had specifically expressed concern about depositions being used to “stall litigation or needlessly harass plaintiffs.” They called the 14-hour limit a “clear cap” and a “reasonable limitation,” and concluded that the law “sufficiently comports with principles of fairness and decency.”
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, you need a strong advocate to stand up for your rights and ensure that you are treated with fairness and decency. To learn how we can help, contact the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net today at 1-800-692-8608.