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Sunday, April 30, 2017

Death before Trial in a Texas Negligence Action

Q: What happens if a victim starts a personal injury lawsuit but dies while the case is still pending?

Most people get a watch upon their retirement. Some end up with mesothelioma.

One such man reportedly loved three things: his grandchildren, the Texas Rangers, and his job as a mechanical engineer at an aerospace company. And after being a loyal employee for 38 years, he retired. 

Unfortunately, after a lifetime of working under conditions that subjected him to what one lawyer described as “an ungodly amount of asbestos exposure”, he contracted mesothelioma, a particularly lethal lung cancer caused by exposure to and inhalation of asbestos during his years of employment. He died from the cancer, but not before learning a “heart-breaking” truth-- his employer knew asbestos was deadly years before they even hired him. He started a lawsuit against the company a year before he died in 2013 at the age of 74. 

The Texas Survival Statute allows a personal injury lawsuit to survive the death of the victim. The victim’s estate—usually by a family member representative—steps into his place in the lawsuit, which continues on until it’s tried or settled. The estate would be entitled to receive the same damages the victim would have been entitled to, had he not died, for the losses he had suffered. Any award recovered would become an asset of the estate and would then be distributed to his heirs in accordance with the terms of his will or the intestacy statute if he died without one.

The survival statute lawsuit is different and separate from a wrongful death action which the victim’s closest surviving family members may be entitled to commence to recover for their own personal losses—not the victim’s—which stemmed from the victim’s injuries and subsequent death. Such losses may include the victim’s funeral expenses, loss of income and support, mental anguish, loss of companionship, loss of anticipated inheritance and more, depending on the relationship between the victim and the surviving family member and other factors that differ in each particular case.

In the case at hand, the victim reportedly worked in a “cloud of asbestos dust” and was often exposed to asbestos “in an amount 200 times greater than is considered permissible by government safety standards.”  The company reportedly knew that asbestos exposure was fatal since 1955—eight years before the victim was even hired-- but “it did nothing to safeguard its employees until the mid-1970s”. During the time of the victim’s asbestos exposure, “there was not a company-based respiratory protection policy in place”, according to his attorneys.

At trial, a jury determined that there was “clear and convincing evidence” the company was “grossly negligent” in exposing the worker to asbestos and returned a verdict for nearly $9 million. An appeal is anticipated. Mesothelioma actions are particularly complex and are usually handled by personal injury attorneys with specialized experience.

If you or a loved one has been injured or a loved one has been killed as a result of the negligent, reckless, or intentional actions or inactions of another person or entity, the experienced and certified injury specialists at Sawicki Law can help you recover the financial damages to which you are entitled. While it won’t undo the injuries or bring your loved one back, it can help relieve the financial burdens you are suffering as a result of your unexpected loss. 

Call us today at 888-468-8844 for a free consultation. From our offices in Dallas, we serve clients throughout the state of Texas as well as those injured while visiting Texas. 

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