Red Tape tips the scales of Justice out of balance and may have hastened the death of one asbestos victim. Delay tactics are one of the most popular strategic maneuvers used by asbestos defense attorneys today. Requesting an extension of time from the courts, canceling and rescheduling depositions and dragging their feet when it comes to turning over incriminating documentation are all tactics employed by defense attorneys. Discovery as defined by Black’s Law Dictionary, is the ascertainment of that which was previously unknown; the disclosure or coming to light of what was previously hidden; the acquisition of notice or knowledge of given acts or facts. Discovery is an integral part of the judicial process, but it is during this exchange of information where the system and the injured party can be abused. The expeditious implementation of justice is rarely as important to the accused as it is to the person who has suffered a loss and is seeking compensatory action.
John 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. Mr. Johnson collapsed just 40 minutes after a grueling deposition. He lost his battle with mesothelioma the very next day. Despite affidavits from his doctor stating that 12 hours of depositions over a few weeks would be about as much as the 69-year-old’s health could stand, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge allowed the companies he was suing a total of 25 hours.
The attorney for the defense actually requested from the court five (5) additional hours from the original twenty that they were granted. They spent this time asking questions that they already had the answers to such as:
- Is the VA Hospital in West, L.A.?
- What are your sons’ names?
- What are your sons’ ages? Locations? Marital Status? Etc.
- What is your wife’s name? Which happened to have been listed in the case caption of not only the complaint, but every subsequent pleading filed in the case; including those filed by the defense themselves.
One cannot help but wonder if these questions were truly relevant to establishing the culpability of the defendant. The defense was already in possession of this information. If in fact it was relevant and if in fact there was some clarification of these facts necessary, could the answers have not been provided in the written format of standard interrogatories? Johnson’s lawyer believes companies seek to delay finishing these cases because a victim’s recovery will be reduced greatly once they die. 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.
Delay tactics can also be used to exhaust the financial resources of the plaintiff, make the recollection of actual events less clear with the passing of time, and/or delay payment of an inevitable judgment or pressure the plaintiff into accepting a lesser but more prompt compensation. What delay tactics always result in is the frustration of the plaintiff, occasionally to such a point that an injured party is willing to drop a suit that has merit and forgo that which he is justly entitled to.
Delay tactics are not only reserved for cases that are actually litigated. Bankrupt defendants also seek refuge within the appeals process or behind mountains of red tape pawned off as procedural requirements as a means to postpone the release and disbursement of assets. For example, there are claimants who have been waiting for compensation from Travelers Insurance Company since 2004.
If you or someone you know is suffering from Mesothelioma or any asbestos related disease make sure you have an experienced asbestos attorney that knows how to protect you from the injustices that these delay tactics create; an attorney that knows how to maneuver through the plethora of red tape and protect your rights.
NewYork Times: Mesothelioma victims deserve better than wasteful legal maneuvers
Photo Credit to New Times: Photo of John Johnson
Blacks Law Dictionary: What is Discovery