Though mesothelioma victims seeking justice through the New York City court systems have successfully pursued lawsuits against asbestos companies, a 1996 deferral created a frustrating situation that stymied their ability to pursue punitive damages. Now, after decades of conflicting decisions, New York City Asbestos Litigation (NYCAL) Judge Adam Silvera has lifted the deferral and ruled that the claims can move forward.
Mesothelioma Victims Prohibited from Seeking Punitive Damages for Decades
When pursuing justice in cases of asbestos exposure, mesothelioma victims file lawsuits seeking compensation for the monetary losses they’ve suffered. In addition to economic damages, many courts permit them to pursue punitive damages meant to punish particularly egregious behavior. In 1996, the NYCAL courts indefinitely deferred victims’ ability to seek this type of compensation.
The NYCAL court offered several reasons for deferring this legal avenue for mesothelioma victims. They cited the extended amount of time between the wrongs having been committed and the time that the damages would be imposed. They also noted disparities between state laws and the depletion of resources they said would be better used to compensate victims.
Deferral Decision Created Decades of Confusion and Frustration for Mesothelioma Victims
The 1996 decision created years of uncertainty, confusion, and frustration for mesothelioma victims seeking justice, and unleashed multiple subsequent legal requests. In 2013, an attorney representing plaintiffs asked for it to be lifted and this application was granted, then asbestos companies appealed the decision. In 2017, another NYCAL judge reinstated the punitive damages with the understanding that the parties attempt to mediate, but that if no agreement could be reached then additional discovery would be allowed. Then a trial judge would decide whether the question of awarding punitive damages should go to a jury. In 2021, the asbestos companies appealed this reinstatement.
In arguing against allowing punitive damages for mesothelioma victims, the asbestos companies pointed to the multiple bankruptcies that have been suffered in their ranks and the further costs that could be incurred. They argued that punitive damages would be wrongly applied since they were meant to serve as a deterrent, and the companies had long since stopped using asbestos. They also said that allowing them would make cases take longer to resolve.
Judge Rules in Favor of Punitive Damages Claims for Mesothelioma Victims
In reviewing the arguments from the asbestos companies, Judge Adam Silvera determined that they had failed to prove their point. He said that continuing the deferral would deny the victims their right to have their cases head and pointed out that victims in other types of cases being heard in New York are allowed to have punitive damages claims heard. Mesothelioma victims’ right to pursue punitive damages will be restored.
If you or someone you love has been impacted by malignant mesothelioma, it is important that you know all your rights and the resources available to you. Contact the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net at 1-800-692-8608 to get the answers to all your questions.FREE Mesothelioma Packet