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 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, 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

101 Ways to Improve State Legal Systems: A User's Guide to Promoting Fair and Effective Civil Justice - FIFTH EDITION 2017

September 12, 2017 | A user's guide to state legal reforms, providing policymakers with a compendium of options available to foster a sound legal system and promote state economies. This resource also offers a compilation of recently-enacted legal reforms to show how legislators can move the proposals described in the guide from theory into practice.

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.

Additional Resources

All Results for Asbestos

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 »

101 Ways to Improve State Legal Systems: A User's Guide to Promoting Fair and Effective Civil Justice - FIFTH EDITION 2017

September 12, 2017 | Research

A user's guide to state legal reforms, providing policymakers with a compendium of options available to foster a sound legal system and promote state economies. This resource also offers a compilation of recently-enacted legal reforms to show how legislators can move the proposals described in the guide from theory into practice. Read More »

"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 »

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

Author: James L. Stengel and C. Anne Malik, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP | 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 »

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 »

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 »

In the News Today - June 22, 2017

June 22, 2017 | News and Blog

The new case management order for New York City's asbestos courts, released this week and set to take effect on July 20, contains provisions that both defense and plaintiffs' attorneys dislike. Read More »

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 »

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