In West Virginia, asbestos cases are filed with “short form complaint.” This means that the master complaint in all asbestos litigation remains on file with the mass litigation panel.
WV Ranks in Top 5
According to asbestos.com, over the past decade, West Virginia has continuously ranked in the top five U.S. states where asbestos related suits are filed.
“Between 1998 and 2000, West Virginia and four other states accounted for two-thirds of all U.S. asbestos case filings. As of 2006, the state processed an estimated 33,000 asbestos claims.By 2008, West Virginia developed a reputation for having plaintiff-friendly courts and juries. As more and more people become aware of mesothelioma cancer and their rights to sue because of the disease, West Virginia continues to be a popular jurisdiction for new asbestos case filings.”
Asbestos Mortality Rate
As a big coal-mining town, exposure to asbestos dust and mining equipment can be responsible for the development of many serious illnesses. Government data shows that at least 594 asbestos-related deaths occurred in state by 2001. Over 25% of them occurred in Kanawha County. However, since asbestos mortality rates only date back to 1979 and therefore don’t cover those that occurred prior to the broader discovery of mesothelioma and before the government started tracking such deaths in 1999. This doesn’t even account for those with asbestos-related lung and gastrointestinal cancers.
Plaintiffs in asbestos cases must share a lot of personal information including:
- Work history
- Smoking history
- Medical providers
- Any Existing Benefits (e.g. disability)
In asbestos cases, we often see claim consolidation in order to limit the number of claims throughout many years. There are three categories of severity:
- Category I Cases
- Category II Cases
- Category III Cases
The Mass Litigation Panel
Regardless of where the asbestos injury may have occurred within the state, all West Virginia are filed in Kanawha Circuit Court and then sent to the Mass Litigation Panel. The panel is made up of six judges, with Judge Ronald Wilson presiding over the personal injury asbestos litigation. However, Judge Wilson is not currently an actual member of the panel.
Not Fading Any Time Soon
Despite the fact that asbestos litigation has now been ongoing for decades, according to the Mass Litigation Panel’s annual report, in 2017 there were still almost 5,000 asbestos personal injury orders filed with the Panel. A majority of the cases that the Panel sees remain those dealing with the hazardous mineral.
WV Asbestos Litigation System
Although asbestos has always been put in a box all its own, the West Virginia asbestos litigation system is pretty much the same as any other lawsuit. “It just falls under a case management order that was ordered by the mass litigation panel,” said Victoria Antion, a WV attorney. “There isn’t really anything different other than it falls under the panel.”