California has enacted an important legal change impacting the terminally
ill, which includes mesothelioma patients, and their family members fighting
Starting in January 2022, a new law will allow surviving family members to collect “pain
and suffering” damages on behalf of their deceased loved ones.
Senate Bill No. 447, signed by Governor Gavin Newsom on October 1, expands the scope of recoverable
damages in survival actions. Damages from pain and suffering tend to be
the greatest sum of money at stake in civil litigation but since the 1960s,
California law prohibited such damages from being awarded to plaintiffs
who die before the conclusion of their case.
This loophole has long shielded asbestos companies from paying these damages
once the plaintiff died. Defendants essentially received a “death
discount” if they utilized delay tactics to drag out legal proceeding
and trial at the detriment of ailing meso patients and their families,
thus potentially saving themselves millions of dollars. This crisis became
even worse during the height of the pandemic when courts came to a standstill.
Senator John Laird, who authored the bill sponsored by the plaintiff’s attorney advocacy
group, Consumer Attorneys of California:
“California is one of only five states in the entire nation that
rewards defendants for prolonging court procedures – leaving victims
unable to obtain justice. SB 447 will end decades-old injustice by finally
extending a victim’s right, and the right of their loved ones, to
pursue accountability for human suffering – even if they die prior
to case resolution.”
However, the battle isn’t over yet. In a compromise with the insurance
industry, the law is set to expire in four years in January 2026, unless
lawmakers take further action.