In this podcast, Paul Kelley explains how much a mesothelioma case is worth. He talks about the factors that affect the outcomes and settlements from these cases. He covers how damages are estimated when someone gets mesothelioma.
John Maher: Hi, I’m John Maher. I’m here today with Paul Kelley. Paul is a partner with the Kentucky personal injury law firm, Satterley & Kelley, which has over 30 years of collective experience in handling cases involving mesothelioma and asbestos exposure. Today, we’re talking about how much is a mesothelioma case worth. Welcome, Paul.
Paul Kelley: Hi John. How are you doing today?
John: Good. Thanks. So, Paul, what are some of the factors that might influence a mesothelioma lawsuits value?
Paul: Oh, there are so many different factors that can have an impact on the value of the case. Age is always a critical factor. We see people who unfortunately, are as young as in their 40s, we’ve represented people who are in their 80s and 90s. And that has a huge impact for a variety of different reasons.
Under Kentucky law, which is where I mostly practice, there are a variety of different types of damages that people can request for a jury to award. So medical expenses, we can ask and a jury can award medical expenses. A jury can award lost income for the person with mesothelioma. Well, someone who’s in their 40s and has a lifetime work expectancy of 20 more years, they’re going to be able to claim damages that someone who’s been retired for 10, 15 years, won’t be able to likely get.
Paul: And there’s some nuances to that. I mean, their estate can recover things like lost pension and social security, but in terms of when somebody comes in and they say, well, I’m 48 years old and I work as a, I’m just making it up, but work as a pilot somewhere making $130,000 a year. Their damages are substantial as opposed to someone who’s kind of past that retirement age. So those are some factors.
How long someone has the disease has a huge impact. Again, if we use my 40 year old example, if that person lives for three, four, five years and gets extensive treatment, we can recover something called pain and suffering and pain suffering encompasses their physical pain and suffering, their mental pain and suffering past, present, and future. And so some of these treatments that we’ve talked about in other times that we’ve gotten together can be extensive. And chemotherapy and surgeries and there’s side effects and there’s medications.
And so people will unfortunately potentially experience a lot of unnecessary suffering as a result of getting this unnecessary preventable disease. But that would have an impact. And if someone who passed away in five or six months and was a little bit older, that’s not to minimize their pain and suffering, it was significant. But in terms of the likely value of the overall value of the case, that will most certainly have an impact there. The other things that can have an impact on it is who the defendant is. If it’s a giant Fortune 500 company that had 60, 70 years of knowledge of the hazards of asbestos and still made a product or still caused an exposure, that’s going to have a big impact.
We can get punitive damages. Punitive damages are the punishment damages to companies that don’t do things the right way and maliciously, recklessly expose people to asbestos or any type of substances. And so that could have a big impact.
Jurisdiction has an impact, where the case is filed. Some places juries tend to award a little more money and some places they don’t. Quite frankly, the plaintiff has a big impact, who it is. So there’s a multitude of factors. When we get a case and we meet somebody for the first time, we start thinking about all those things right away. We start thinking about the ways that we can maximize the recovery for them and their family, because this is a situation where they’re going to need it more than anything. And so figuring out ways to help folks as much as possible is what we try to do. And so we try to identify all the factors that are going to bolster the case, and if they don’t fit into all those factors, then we look at other factors so that we can ultimately help these people in their greatest time of need.
John: Is there anything that a plaintiff can do to help you to maximize their recovery?
Paul: Well, yes and no. I mean the better historian they are, I mean the more that they know about their exposure and the more information that they can assist us in finding that really makes it a lot easier. I mean, the best cases are the ones for people that have an identifiable exposure and they can explain their exposure and they can find coworkers and other people who also had the same exposure with them at the same time. I mean, those are certainly things they can do.
Obviously their medical situation is critically important. And I think that taking their medical situation seriously and following doctor’s orders and taking the treatments when they need to do that… those are all things that they can do to help. But there’s a lot of extrinsic factors that they have no control over and they can’t really help. But I do think that being able to provide as much information as possible is the greatest way that our clients help us help them.
John: So when somebody receives a mesothelioma settlement, obviously they’re not able to keep all of that. For one, they would have to pay a lawyer to represent them. How much does a person typically pay a mesothelioma lawyer to represent them in a case like this?
Paul: Sure. Generally it’s a percentage of what was recovered for them, whether it was through a judgment or a verdict. Nobody ever pays me an hourly rate or anything out of pocket. If I’m not successful for my clients in some way, then they pay us nothing. If an attorney who is going to, holds themselves out as a lawyer for these kinds of cases, if they don’t do it the same way, then they don’t want to go with that lawyer.
The cases, the amount of time that I put into a mesothelioma case, I mean, if I charge an hourly rate for it, nobody would ever be able to pay us. I mean, they couldn’t do it. We spend hundreds, if not thousands of hours working on a case. So typically we take a percentage and that’s the way that works. And we make sure that our client gets a substantial amount of money from what the ultimate recovery is.
John: Right. And they shouldn’t be afraid of approaching you and thinking about bringing a lawsuit against somebody for their case, because they don’t have the money to pay for a lawyer or something like that. That’s not the way it works.
Paul: Absolutely. That should be the furthest thing from their mind. God forbid, if something happens and we ultimately aren’t successful for that person, they’re not going to owe us one penny. And that’s the way we want to do it. We don’t want people to be burdened by having to worry about legal bills when they already have medical bills and other hardships with their suffering, as a result of this diagnosis.
John: Are there other types of expenses that can be incurred during a mesothelioma case other than just lawyers’ fees and who pays for those expenses?
Paul: So there are a lot of expenses that are incurred. Every case is a little bit different and it depends on how far it goes. We have court costs, for example, just there’s a fee to file the case. We will inevitably have to hire expert witnesses in order to prove our case. So for example, if someone has mesothelioma, I’ll usually hire an expert to confirm that they have mesothelioma.
And once that’s done, then we’ll have experts who will evaluate the case to make determinations as to whether the mesothelium was caused by asbestos exposure, caused by the defendant’s asbestos products. So there’s expert fees. There are sometimes travel expenses to go take depositions of corporate representatives. So the companies that we’re going to sue, they’re not located here in Kentucky, they’re located all over the country, if not all over the world. So sometimes when we need to get information from those companies, we have to go to them.
And so we might incur some fees and costs associated with those sorts of things. And it’s a little bit all over the board, John, as to how much it costs. I mean, anywhere from a few thousand dollars, depending on whether a case gets filed and how far it goes into the several hundreds of thousands of dollars. Again, we front those costs, most law firms would, but we front those costs. And if we recover, then typically the client will pay us back for those, from whatever the recovery is. If we don’t recover, then those are our costs, our expenses. The client doesn’t worry about it. They move on with their life and we don’t worry about trying to get any of those costs back.
John: So do those costs, are those part of the percentage that you mentioned previously, or are those in addition to the percentage that you mentioned?
Paul: Typically speaking they’re in addition to.
John: Okay. All right. Well, that’s really a great information, Paul. Thanks for speaking with me today.
Paul: Thanks John. I appreciate it.
John: And for more information about mesothelioma and asbestos exposure, visit the law firm of Satterley & Kelley at satterleylaw.com or call 800-655-2117.