Many trials only last a few days. In some cases, the material may be straightforward enough to be tried in the space of one day. On the other hand, cases that are more complex demand much more time. Antitrust litigation against IBM lasted decades, due to the very complex nature of antitrust law and voluminous documentation necessary to demonstrate relevant facts of the case.
A recent asbestos trial in New York was of this complex nature. Three construction workers had contracted mesothelioma as a result of their jobs. One worked as an insulator during the construction of buildings for Consolidate Edison. The second man was a steamfitter and worked on the construction of the World Trade Center in the early 1970s. The third man was an electrician.
Originally, the trial began with 30 defendants, and with that number of defendants and the dozens of witnesses that would have to testify, this asbestos trial lasted four months. For a complex asbestos case, this is not unexpected.
Because asbestos was used in many different industrial and construction applications, it becomes necessary to meticulously map an individuals working life, each job they were assigned, each project they worked on. It is also necessary to try to reconstruct all of the different exposures to asbestos on each site or project.
This is expensive and asbestos defendants often attempt to further delay and drag out trials with various procedural tactics designed to drive up the cost of litigation in the hope that plaintiffs will abandon their claims.
The good news on this case was the plaintiffs were awarded a total of $12.5 million in damages. The sad element of this case was that it was the estates of the men that would receive the damage award.
Source: Legal Newsline, “Long asbestos trial attributed to complexity, number of defendants,” Heather Isringhausen Gvillo, April 7, 2014