Mel talks with Michael Ponterio from Lipsitz, Ponterio & Comerford LLC. Ponterio says people with mesothelioma and other catastrophic injuries, jury trials are essential to resolving their claim. He says most of civil personal injury cases don’t get resolved until you are at the courthouse steps picking a jury and the reason is the insurance companies. Ponterio says the insurance companies look at these cases in an impartial manner and they hold onto their money until they have to decide if they want to risk a trial or settle. Most of the time a civil case will get resolved right at the time of trial. That’s where this pandemic has really wreaked havoc in the court system and the litigants and the parties that have been affected by mesothelioma or other catastrophic injuries.
Ponterio says from the point you are diagnosed with mesothelioma, regrettably it is a terminal cancer and you have a range of one to two years to live and really it is a race against the clock. They still have the right if they die. Their family can bring a wrongful death action but it is really not the same because the litigant, the one who has been affected is the one that really wants their day in court and wants peace of mind to know that they have accounted and provided for their family says Ponterio. He says in order to have their case resolved there really has to be a jury trial. Unfortunately, with this pandemic there haven’t been any trials in New York State and in the Buffalo area. He says there is light at the end of the tunnel in that they are going to start resuming trials in about one to two months. They are setting up special courtrooms with social distancing, sanitizing, making sure the courtroom is clean to making sure that everyone is safe as possible. You want to give people their day in court and resume jury trials, but you want to make sure everyone is safe.
How are they feeling about the future? Ponterio says it’s a new day. He says, for example, they have a lot of experts that are out of state and when they do start resuming jury trials, our experts say well, what if I have to fly in and then quarantine? Technically, you can present an expert on camera, but the jury loses that personal contact. Those are still open question marks on how courts are going to deal with that.
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