Grainy video shot last August shows 75-year-old Nader Kordestani lying in a padded recliner at his home in Calabasas, California, near Los Angeles. Off camera, a defense lawyer asks him if it’s true his health is failing.
Dressed in a gray sweater and covered in a blanket, Kordestani replies in a stilted voice. “That’s correct. I am, believe me, I am dying. I’m not in good shape. I am not going to survive.”
For more than three hours, Kordestani responds to questions between labored breaths and a hacking cough, his eyes at times struggling to stay open. Lawyers argue as the Iranian immigrant is peppered with questions, many repetitive, about events that happened decades earlier.
It is not Kordestani’s first time being deposed while suffering from mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive cancer linked to asbestos. A roomful of lawyers questioned him for more than 17 hours over 18 days in 2013. That year, Kordestani had sued 50 corporations for allegedly exposing him to the fiber while he worked at an Iranian oil refinery, starting in the 1960s. The refinery was built, in part, by American companies, which is why he’s suing in the United States.
Depositions routinely last 20 or more hours in California asbestos cases, lawyers say, far outpacing federal limits and other states where the number of hours rarely exceeds single digits.
The arduous and antagonistic process puts a heavy strain on mesothelioma patients typically given months to live following diagnosis and simultaneously undergoing harsh therapies like radiation. Situations like Kordestani’s raise a thorny question: How much is too much?