We have long advocated for reasonable limitations on the length of time
that asbestos companies can question
asbestos cancer patients. At this time, there is no state-wide rule that limits the amount
of time that asbestos company lawyers can question asbestos cancer patients
in the context of a pre-trial discovery depositions.
This “anything goes” policy has led to wide-spread abuse. Asbestos
company lawyers have typically prolonged depositions well over 20 to 30
hours, over the course of 10 to 15 days – even when the patient’s
doctor has warned of the deleterious impact of such interrogation.
Finally, on August 29, 2012, at the urging of plaintiffs attorneys, California
lawmakers passed a
bill that would impose state-wide limits on the length of plaintiff depositions.
The general rule would limit defense questioning of a plaintiff to seven
hours of total testimony. In asbestos illness cases where a physician
attests that the plaintiff’s illness raises substantial medical
doubt of survival beyond six months, defense questioning would be limited
to two days of no more than seven hours of testimony each day, or 14 hours
of total testimony.
The Worthington Firm, along with other plaintiffs attorneys, had pushed
for a limit of seven hours across the board, or at least for all asbestos
cancer cases, similar to the rule that applies in Federal Court and many
states such as Texas. While this was rejected by the legislature, we would
nevertheless consider this new law just, fair and humane measure to curb
abusive and deleterious deposition practices.
Under existing law, asbestos company lawyers are entitled to assume that
depositions are limitless. If the new law is passed, 14 hours will be
the presumed limit in most cases, with the ability to seek even shorter
limits on a case-by-case basis with a doctor’s declaration.
The bill now moves on to Governor Jerry Brown who has not taken a position
on the matter. It is hoped that Governor Brown will realize how the absence
of California law on this subject has permitted defense attorneys to needlessly
and cruelly capitalize on the physical frailties of injured plaintiffs.
We strongly urge Governor Brown to sign the bill into law.