Malignant mesothelioma is a horrific disease that often leaves victims with little medical recourse other than a slow death. John Johnson had the disease. And his legal struggles show that mesothelioma victims deserve better.
Johnson, 69, was a marine. Since 1961 he worked as a carpenter, mechanic, and plumber. Any of his jobs could've exposed him to the asbestos that likely caused his disease, the Los Angeles Times reports. So he sued 65 companies for compensation.
At the end, Johnson put off his medical appointments to wage his legal battle. Where did he collapse?
40 minutes after his last day of depositions.
Malignant mesothelioma is a rare cancer that can attack the lining in your lungs, heart, and abdomen. Symptoms include chest and abdominal pain, shortness of breath, swelling, clotting, and bowel obstruction. However, symptoms don't show up until 10 to 40 years later.
Asbestos exposure causes the disease. Injuries date back as far as the 1930s. Today, mesothelioma injuries make up the largest ongoing mass tort case in the country.
The irony is that everyone already knows that asbestos causes mesothelioma. What's usually being litigated in court is whether the particular defendant was actually the source for the victim's exposure.
Figuring out the exact source can be difficult because asbestos was used so commonly during the mid-1900s.
Johnson's lawyer believes companies seek to delay finishing these cases because a victim's recovery will be reduced greatly once they die. This is a sentiment echoed by many mesothelioma attorneys.
In Johnson's case, he was slammed with over 25 hours of depositions to determine his exposure source. Once he died, damages for Johnson's own pain and suffering were lost. His family can now only sue for his medical bills and loss of companionship, according to his lawyer.
Jury awards in mesothelioma cases average about $3.8 million. Multiplied across thousands of victims and any company could easily face bankruptcy.
The solution to this problem isn't clear. Some argue that a mass settlement funded by the whole industry is the answer. But movement in that area is slow.
For now, the only thing certain is that mesothelioma victims deserve better than what the current system offers.