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. U.S. Chamber Praises Senate Introduction of PROTECT Asbestos Victims Act

    March 16, 2018 | Blogs

    Harold Kim, executive vice president of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR), made the following statement about the introduction of the PROTECT Asbestos Victims Act of 2018 (S. 2564) by Senator Thom Tillis.... Read More

  2. Senators Introduce PROTECT Asbestos Victims Act

    March 16, 2018 | News

    Sens. Thom Tillis, Chuck Grassley, and John Cornyn introduced the PROTECT Asbestos Victims Act yesterday to provide "much-needed oversight of asbestos bankruptcy trusts to ensure victims receive just compensation."... Read More

  3. Missouri House Shines a Spotlight on Asbestos Litigation Fraud

    March 12, 2018 | News

    Last Thursday, the Missouri House passed a bill that would finally cast sunlight upon the state's asbestos litigation machine.... Read More

  4. Report: Asbestos Bankruptcy Trusts Running Short of Money to Pay Future Claimants, System Lacks Safeguards

    March 08, 2018 | Press Release

    WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A new report released today by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) highlights that asbestos bankruptcy trusts are being depleted, jeopardizing their ability to fully compensate future claimants.... Read More

  5. Dubious Distribution: Asbestos Bankruptcy Trust Assets and Compensation

    March 08, 2018 | Research

    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

  6. Junk Science at a Tipping Point?

    March 01, 2018 | Blogs

    Are plaintiffs' lawyers beginning to sound the retreat when it comes to junk science lawsuits falsely claiming that talcum powder causes cancer? A recent development suggests they may be and, if not, they should.... Read More

  7. In the News Today - February 13, 2018

    February 13, 2018 | News

    Asbestos Documentary Spurs Fight to Unseal Deposition in Travis County... Read More

  8. "Keep Reforming Missouri Lawsuit Abuse in 2018"

    February 05, 2018 | News

    An op-ed from Manhattan Institute leaders called on Missouri legislators to "build on last year's successes" to rid the state of "its 'Sue Me State' reputation."... Read More

  9. Congress Must Take Action as the Asbestos Litigation Machine Rolls On

    January 30, 2018 | Blogs

    At a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last fall, John Beisner, a partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, said the asbestos litigation system "suffers from the abuse inherent to its lack of oversight." ... Read More

  10. Top 10 Legal Reform Research Topics of 2017

    January 11, 2018 | News

    Review ILR's wide-ranging top ten legal reform research topics from 2017 and gain insights for 2018.... Read More