How Long Could My Talc-Asbestos Lawsuit Case Take?

Whether your talc-asbestos case will settle or go to trial is difficult to predict. Here’s what you need to know about possible timelines.

When you’re experiencing health problems possibly linked to asbestos in baby powder or other talcum products, and you’re considering a lawsuit against the manufacturer, you might be wondering about the process and what to expect in terms of timing. Whether you’ve been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, mesothelioma, or another condition, the first thing to know is that like any other kind of personal injury case, a typical talc-asbestos claim proceeds through a number of distinct stages. And while every case is different, a number of factors will determine the timeline of your case.

The Stages of a Typical Lawsuit Over Asbestos-Tainted Talc

A talc-asbestos lawsuit usually goes through the following phases:

  • The consumer (now the "plaintiff") files a civil complaint in court. The complaint is the document that starts the personal injury lawsuit. It describes the plaintiff's case and claims against the "defendant" (in talc-asbestos cases, the defendant is usually a manufacturer, such as Johnson & Johnson).
  • The defendant files an answer to the complaint.
  • The discovery process begins: The plaintiff and defendant exchange information, medical records, and other evidence through written questions (interrogatories), sworn testimony (depositions), and document requests.
  • Pre-trial motions are filed and hearings are held: Both sides of the lawsuit try to persuade the judge to allow or prohibit certain evidence (testimony from a proposed expert witness, for example) or to dismiss all or part of the other side's argument.
  • Trial takes place: The plaintiff and defendant carefully set out their arguments in front of the judge or jury, and the judge or jury decides whether the defendant should be held financially responsible for the plaintiff’s health problems and other losses (damages) tied to use of the talcum powder product.

    Those are the basic steps in the process, but the two sides could discuss (and finalize) a settlement at any point (more on this later). Now let's take a closer look at factors that have the biggest impact on how long the talc-asbestos lawsuit process might take.

    Factors That Can Extend the Timeline of Your Talc-Asbestos Case

    Most talc-asbestos lawsuits rely on the legal concept of product liability, in which a plaintiff seeks to hold a manufacturer responsible for health problems caused by an unreasonably dangerous or otherwise defective product. These kinds of cases can be quite complex. There might be issues to address right at the outset, including the appropriate statute-of-limitations filing deadline in light of the plaintiff's symptoms. And there will certainly be stacks of medical records to sift through, plus expert witnesses to hear from (often multiple experts on both sides of the case).

    All this means some of the phases mentioned above will undoubtedly take longer than they might in a less complex lawsuit (one stemming from a car accident, for example). That's especially true when it comes to the discovery process and the filing of pretrial motions that will set the ground rules for any trial.

    The court's calendar could also affect the timeline of your case. If the calendar is clogged, hearing and trial dates might get pushed back by weeks or months.

    Your Talc-Asbestos Case Could Settle at Any Time

    As discussed above, any talc-asbestos lawsuit will most likely follow roughly the same path from the filing of the complaint through a trial, but it's important to note that settlement of the lawsuit can take place at any time.

    For example, soon after the complaint is filed the plaintiff's attorney could send a demand letter to the other side, detailing the plaintiff's harm and asking for a certain dollar amount as compensation. This letter could spur serious settlement talks, and if a settlement agreement is reached before trial, the lawsuit will be dismissed. Especially as the trial date gets closer and the parties get a better sense of the case landscape (and of their respective chances of prevailing), there's a good chance they'll at least test the settlement waters. And even if the two sides don't come together on their own to try to resolve the case out of court, depending on the jurisdiction in which the lawsuit is filed, the court is almost certain to require that the plaintiff and defendant attend at least one mandatory settlement conference before trial takes place. Learn more about how personal injury settlements work.

    The Timeline Is (Partly) Up to You

    One of the biggest variables in determining how long your talc-asbestos lawsuit will take is you. If the defendant offers you a settlement early on, you'll certainly end up with some fast cash, but you might not be getting full and fair compensation for your losses. (Learn more about how much a talc-asbestos case might be worth.)

    Early settlement usually isn't a good idea—especially if there are still big unknowns, including:

    Before taking any of the formal litigation steps described in this article, any potential plaintiff should first consult an experienced attorney. A knowledgeable lawyer will be able to explain the rules in your jurisdiction and the full range of your strategic options. An attorney can present the pros and cons of settlement, including the fact that once you settle, you can't go back and ask for more money, even if it turns out your injuries are worse than you first thought. For more information on how to choose a lawyer for your specific situation, read about finding the right attorney for you and your talc-asbestos case.

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