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 and abuse. 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 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 with 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 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, H.R. 1927 and S. 357, is federal legislation that would require asbestos personal injury settlement trusts to disclose information on their claims on a quarterly basis. This would allow trusts and businesses to identify and contest questionable claims.

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, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, and Wisconsin have enacted similar laws.

Research

West Virginia's Climb: Lawsuit Climate Progress in the Mountain State and the Path Ahead

January 10, 2018 | West Virginia has begun shedding its reputation for having one of the worst civil justice systems in the nation. The state's lawsuit climate ranked dead last or second to last in surveys of business executives and attorneys conducted eleven times over the past fifteen years--until 2017. This report explores the beginning of the state's encouraging transformation and highlights areas where it may continue this progress.

ILR Research Review - Fall 2017

November 30, 2017 | This special double-issue of the ILR Research Review features a wealth of insight and analysis on the world's rapidly changing litigation environment. The research contained in this issue targets exploitative litigation at home and abroad, examining numerous developments ranging from hyper-aggressive trial lawyer advertising in the U.S. to the imminent expansion of class actions in Europe.

Additional Resources

All Results for Asbestos

In the News Today - June 6, 2017

June 06, 2017 | News and Blog

A procedural loophole in New York laws allows "a few politically-connect law firms to game the courts and win themselves massive attorneys' fees by manipulating the truth of their clients' exposure to asbestos." Read More »

In the News Today - May 24, 2017

May 24, 2017 | News and Blog

Companies in the U.S. spend nearly triple the amount on legal services for every dollar of revenue than counterparts around the globe according to legal research company Acritas. Read More »

New Research from ILR Finds Asbestos Law in Ohio "Has Not Delayed" Justice

May 19, 2017 | News and Blog

Ohio state legislative news service, Gongwer, wrote that a new study released by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR), "found that law (H.B. 380, 129th General Assembly) has been effective at discouraging fraud and abuse without compromising the interests of plaintiffs." Read More »

Asbestos Trust Transparency Reform - It's Working in Ohio; It Will Work in Pennsylvania

May 04, 2017 | News and Blog

Four years ago, Ohio became the first state in the nation to reform its asbestos trust laws to prevent plaintiffs' lawyers' gaming the system by bringing transparency and fairness to the process of filing claims against the trusts. Read More »

Watching it Work: The Impact of Ohio's Asbestos Trust Transparency Law on Tort Litigation in the State

Author: Maryellen K. Corbett and Matthew M. Mendoza, Calfee, Halter & Griswold LLP | May 04, 2017 | Research

This report analyzes the impact that Ohio's 2013 asbestos trust transparency law has had on asbestos tort litigation in the state and concludes that trust transparency reforms appear to have accomplished the goal of ensuring transparency and fairness without causing delays in case resolution. Read More »

In the News Today - May 2, 2017

May 02, 2017 | News and Blog

Supporters of a bill restructuring the way attorneys' fees are awarded in some property disputes are urging the Florida Senate to pass a bill (HB 1421) to restructure the way attorneys' fees are awarded in some property disputes are urging the Florida Senate to tackle the issue. "We need to get the Senate to pass this bill," said William Large, president of the Florida Justice Reform Institute. "Somebody is paying for this, and that somebody is the insured who are paying higher premiums." Read More »

In the News Today - April 24, 2017

April 24, 2017 | News and Blog

The Florida legislature's effort to impose term limits on the state's supreme court and appellate court judges is a terrible idea that will downgrade and weaken Florida's judiciary. No other state has such draconian limitations on judicial terms, and for good reason. Simply put, term limits would push experience, independence, and institutional knowledge out of Florida's courtrooms. Read More »

Mississippi Becomes Tenth State to Combat Asbestos Fraud

March 29, 2017 | News and Blog

Today, Mississippi legislature passed an asbestos trust transparency measure, H.B. 1426. Governor Phil Bryant is expected to sign the bill into law quickly. Mississippi will be the third state this year to enact needed asbestos reforms, following South Dakota and Iowa, joining a growing chorus of states taking action to combat fraud in the asbestos compensation system. Read More »

Alabama Joins Dozen States in Asbestos Bankruptcy Trust Investigations

March 28, 2017 | News and Blog

Alabama's Attorney General, Steve Marshall, is joining colleagues from 12 other states in investigating asbestos bankruptcy trusts' failure to pay out Medicaid payments as federal law requires, writes Alabama Today. Read More »

The Heat is On When it Comes to Asbestos

March 27, 2017 | News and Blog

The "insular world of asbestos litigation" is having a "decidedly non-insular month," according to the Huffington Post. Read More »

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