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

Chamber Releases Study on Impact of Asbestos Lawsuits

January 22, 2003 | Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C., Jan. 23, 2003 - The United States Chamber of Commerce today released new research that shows how asbestos lawsuits not only adversely affect the companies being sued but also cause secondary harm to other businesses, governments, communities and individuals. Read More »

Chamber Supports House Judiciary Committee Asbestos Litigation Reform Bill

March 15, 2000 | Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 16, 2000 - The United States Chamber of Commerce today called the House Judiciary Committee's passage of the Fairness in Asbestos Compensation Act (H.R. 1283) an important step toward resolving billions of dollars in compensation claims. The asbestos litigation reform bill is designed to speed settlements, unclog courts and restore a measure of predictability for affected companies. The proposal establishes federal authority to speed compensation to the hundreds of thousands of people physically harmed by asbestos. Read More »

In the News Today - March 17, 2017

December 31, 1969 | News and Blog

The Missouri Senate passed a bill this week by a 21-11 vote that would allow judges to decide whether experts' testimony would be reliable based on "sufficient facts" and "reliable principles and methods," as well as being "reliably applied" to the facts of the case. Read More »

Madison County's Share of Non-Local Asbestos Lawsuits Grows

December 31, 1969 | News and Blog

In Madison County (IL) courts, the more things change, the more they . . . get worse? That's the only plausible conclusion from a recent Madison-St. Clair Record analysis of asbestos cases in the notorious legal jurisdiction. Read More »

Tennessee Joins Ranks of States with Law to Fight Asbestos Fraud

Author: Harold Kim, Executive Vice President U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform | December 31, 1969 | News and Blog

Last week, Tennessee joined a growing number of states that have passed laws to combat asbestos fraud. Tennessee's new law aimed at stopping plaintiffs' lawyer ‘double dipping' - seeking money from multiple asbestos trusts in addition to bringing a lawsuit, all on behalf of the same individual - is a significant step toward fighting asbestos lawsuit abuse. Read More »

ILR Report Reveals Troubling Inconsistencies in Garlock Trust Claims

December 31, 1969 | News and Blog

The Garlock Sealing Technologies bankruptcy in 2010 revealed just how egregious the abuse is in the current asbestos bankruptcy trust system. Read More »

In The News Today - August 7, 2014

December 31, 1969 | News and Blog

In a decision made public on Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Otis Wright said that per a federal law governing the wind-down of failed banks, the City of Los Angeles could not hold JPMorgan responsible for the lending practices of its subsidiary, Washington Mutual Inc., over the city's allegations regarding the company's sale of mortgages in minority communities. Read More »

In the News Today - May 15, 2014

December 31, 1969 | News and Blog

Kashi has agreed to pay $5 million to settle a lawsuit claiming its products contained unnaturally processed and synthetic ingredients. Read More »

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