Asbestos

Over the past forty years, asbestos-related litigation has forced over 100 companies into bankruptcy – devastating workers, retirees, shareholders and affected communities. Some estimates project the total cost of asbestos litigation (including future claims) at more than $260 billion. Unfortunately, asbestos litigation has long been plagued by fraud. Reform is needed to protect job-creating businesses from lawsuit abuse and to ensure that legitimate victims receive the compensation they deserve. Read More...

Significant litigation over asbestos-related ailments began in the 1970s and has continued unabated ever since. Indeed, asbestos litigation has developed into a billion-dollar enterprise for plaintiffs’ lawyers – as evidenced by the endless TV and online advertising targeted at potential plaintiffs. 

While asbestos lawsuits originally focused on companies that mined asbestos or manufactured asbestos-based insulation products, the collapse of these early asbestos defendants forced plaintiffs’ attorneys to begin targeting new companies, including many that had little, if anything, to do with the manufacture or supply of asbestos-containing products. Many of these lawsuits are filed in plaintiff-friendly “magnet” jurisdictions such as Madison County, Illinois – even if neither the plaintiff nor the defendant has any real connection to the jurisdiction.

The bankruptcies of major asbestos companies also gave rise to trust funds intended to compensate future asbestos victims. Today, these trusts control assets with an estimated value of more than $30 billion. But the existence of the asbestos trusts has not slowed the wave of lawsuits against American businesses. In fact, one prominent plaintiffs' lawyer described asbestos litigation as an "endless search for a solvent bystander."

The asbestos trusts operate in parallel to the traditional tort system and offer only rudimentary reports on the claims they receive and pay. As a result, plaintiffs’ attorneys are sometimes able to hide the fact that a single individual is making multiple claims, citing different and contradictory exposure facts, against multiple trusts and solvent companies. This “double dipping” exposes innocent businesses to abusive lawsuits and deprives the trusts of funds intended for legitimate victims.

Reforms

Federal and state legislation is needed to discourage questionable claims against asbestos trusts, protect businesses from abusive lawsuits and ensure that asbestos trusts are able to compensate legitimate victims.

The Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency (FACT) Act is federal legislation that would require asbestos personal injury settlement trusts to disclose information on their claims on a quarterly basis (H.R. 906, H.R. 985). This would allow trusts and businesses to identify and contest questionable claims.

The PROTECT Asbestos Victims Act, S. 2564, would authorize independent audits and oversight of asbestos bankruptcy trusts to discourage fraud and protect future victims’ access to compensation. The legislation would also ensure that future victims’ interests are adequately represented as courts consider approving new asbestos trust funds and discourage abusive “double dip” claims against solvent companies.

In addition, several states have proposed legislation or changes to court rules that would mandate greater transparency for trust claims. In 2012, Ohio became the first state in the nation to enact a law that requires plaintiffs to file and disclose trust claims before proceeding to trial. Arizona, Iowa, Oklahoma, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, and Wisconsin have since enacted similar laws.

Suggested Resources

Research
  • Dubious Distribution: Asbestos Bankruptcy Trust Assets and Compensation

    Dubious Distribution: Asbestos Bankruptcy Trust Assets and Compensation

    March 08, 2018

    The asbestos bankruptcy trusts, created with the goal of sustainably processing and paying valid asbestos personal injury claims, are quickly being depleted. ILR's research finds that of the 35 asbestos trusts operating as of early 2008, 21 are paying an average of 40 percent less today than in 2008, putting future compensation for asbestos victims in doubt. The paper documents the causes of this rapid depletion, including the highly significant impact of attorney contingency fees. Read More

  • On the Edge: New York County Asbestos Litigation at a Tipping Point

    On the Edge: New York County Asbestos Litigation at a Tipping Point

    August 03, 2017

    This report examines the history and current state of the New York County Asbestos Litigation (NYCAL) unit of New York City's state trial court. The analysis concludes that the procedural features that have driven verdicts and settlements higher than those in other jurisdictions are likely to continue under the Revised Case Management Order, absent fresh judicial interpretation and methods of implementation that correct current problems. Read More

Additional Resources

All Results for Asbestos

  1. Asbestos Plaintiffs' Firm Seeks Lawmaker Backup in Landmark Maryland Case

    November 14, 2017 | News

    Asbestos litigation magnate and Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos wants Maryland lawmakers to step in to negate the impact of a 2016 appeals court decision which threatens to clear as many as 25,000 asbestos cases from the docket. ... Read More

  2. In the News Today - November 9, 2017

    November 09, 2017 | News

    Senate Urged To Pass Legal Reform Bills; Federal Judicial Panel to Consider Litigation Financing.... Read More

  3. Senate Committee Scrutinizes Widespread Abuses of Civil Justice System

    November 08, 2017 | Blogs

    Today, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee holds a hearing to examine the impact of lawsuit abuse on America's small businesses and job creators.... Read More

  4. "Abuses in the Tort System" to Blame for Bankruptcy, Says Atlanta Company

    November 07, 2017 | News

    A unit of Georgia-Pacific said "abuses in the tort system" are to blame for its bankruptcy last week, reports National Law Journal.... Read More

  5. In the News Today - October 18, 2017

    October 18, 2017 | News and Blog

    Md. Asbestos Attys Clash Over Backlog At State Senate; Johnson & Johnson wins reversal of $72 million verdict over talc cancer risks... Read More

  6. In the News Today - October 3, 2017

    October 03, 2017 | News

    Biz Groups Push FTC To Avoid 'Theoretical' Privacy Harms; California small businesses are vulnerable to mass-produced litigation... Read More

  7. "It"s Time for the Asbestos Trusts to Do What's Right"

    August 10, 2017 | News and Blog

    Asbestos litigation, the longest-running mass tort in U.S. history, is well into its fourth decade, and shows no signs of abating soon, writes The Hill. Asbestos litigation bankrupted most of the main producers and manufacturers of the "magic mineral," leading to the creation of special asbestos trusts to pay people injured by asbestos products. From 2006 through 2012, these asbestos trusts paid more than $15 billion settlements.... Read More

  8. On the Edge: New York County Asbestos Litigation at a Tipping Point

    August 03, 2017 | Research

    This report examines the history and current state of the New York County Asbestos Litigation (NYCAL) unit of New York City's state trial court. The analysis concludes that the procedural features that have driven verdicts and settlements higher than those in other jurisdictions are likely to continue under the Revised Case Management Order, absent fresh judicial interpretation and methods of implementation that correct current problems.... Read More

  9. In the News Today - July 24, 2017

    July 24, 2017 | News and Blog

    A 14 billion pound ($18 billion) class action lawsuit against MasterCard for allegedly overcharging more than 45 million people in Britain over a 16-year period was blocked by a British court on Friday. ... Read More

  10. In the News Today - June 23, 2017

    June 23, 2017 | News and Blog

    On May 3, Honeywell asked the federal bankruptcy court in Oakland, CA to make public the ballots cast by holders of asbestos claims against the successors to Chicago Fire Brick and Wellsville Fire Brick, companies that spent a decade creating a trust that would pay individuals with asbestos claims.... Read More