23 Feb My Toughest Case, A Disease With No Cure – Jeffrey T. Gaughan
Many people associate asbestos and mesothelioma lawsuits with late-night TV
commercials and might not take them seriously, but Jeffrey T. Gaughan considers
these cases among his most difficult. As an attorney at the Lake Charles-based law
firm Baggett McCall, Gaughan deals with them on a regular basis because of the
number of plants and chemical refineries in Louisiana.
“As a general group of cases, regardless of specific facts, they’re tough,” he said.
“The insidious problem with asbestos is that it never seems to go away. You turn on
the TV at night, and you see it all the time. And frankly, it’s been around as a
litigated matter for more than 30 years now, and it shows no signs of disappearing
unfortunately,” he continued. “The workers – the people who were our fathers and
grandfathers, who worked in the plants and shipyards – got sick and a lot of them
have passed away, but what we’re seeing now is family members who were exposed
through the clothes that their dad or their grandfather wore home coming down
with the same illness. It’s a type of cancer that affects the lungs and absolutely has
Dealing with asbestos and mesothelioma lawsuits, he says, becomes very emotional.
“Anytime you get that phone call from a client or family member that says ‘my dad,
my mom, or somebody has been diagnosed [with mesothelioma]’ the problem is –
and they know it by that point – that there’s no cure. There’s absolutely no hope,” he
said. “It always becomes very difficult, emotionally, to try to appease the family, to
try to make them understand what the legal process is about because they know the
person they’re concerned about is not going to be here.”
As a lawyer in a civil case, Gaughan says, the only thing he can do for a grieving
family is to help them win damages – either through trial or a settlement. But, that
often is not enough for a family dealing with a death.
“In the case we had recently, what the family wanted was an apology. They did not
want some extreme amount of money; it wouldn’t have helped because what they
wanted back was their dad,” he said. “What they wanted at trial, day after day… was
an apology and at some point we went to the defendant and said, ‘Look, you would
help a lot if you apologized to them.’ And unfortunately that never happened; you
can’t put a monetary value on a parent. It’s difficult.”
In a difficult situation like this, as with all relationships, Gaughan says
communication between clients and attorney is key.
“The more you talk, the more you discuss things, the more you find some common
ground, the more you find the ability to communicate, you discover who the client is,
what’s important to them,” he said. “We might all end up in the courtroom someday
and put on trial, but the relationship you develop with a client takes a lot of time and
Besides asbestos-related claims and mesothelioma lawsuits at Baggett McCall, Gaughan
handles cases involving chemical exposure, car accidents, products liability, and
pharmaceutical cases (both drugs and medical devices). The ‘designated Yankee’ of
the firm, Gaughan grew up in Western Maryland and attended James Madison
University in Virginia for his undergraduate degree and moved to New Orleans
where he graduated from Tulane Law School. However, he seems to prefer living
in the South.
“I tell you what, I visited my mom over the Christmas holidays and it was 7 degrees
up there,” Gaughan said. “It made me realize why I do not want to go up North.”
After getting married. Gaughan and his wife moved to Savannah, GA for a short
period, but ultimately settled in Lake Charles, LA. They have four children, all of
whom are involved in sports and other activities, keeping Gaughan busy.
He finished by saying, “One of these days I’ll have time to develop a hobby, but for
the most part it’s chasing everybody around.”