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. Report: West Virginia Legal Climate Improving; Should Stay on a Reform Path

    January 10, 2018 | News

    A new study from the Institute for Legal Reform, West Virginia's Climb: Lawsuit Climate Progress in the Mountain State and the Path Ahead, highlights major improvements in the state's civil justice system over the last three years. ... Read More

  2. WV's "State of the State" on Legal Reform: Improving

    January 10, 2018 | Blogs

    Ahead of West Virginia Governor Jim Justice's "State of the State" address on Wednesday night, new research from the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) provides a snapshot of the state's past accomplishments and future opportunities on legal reform.... Read More

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

    January 10, 2018 | Research

    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.... Read More

  4. In the News Today - December 15, 2017

    December 15, 2017 | News

    Fla. High Court Won't Rule On Gov.'s Plan To Name 3 Justices; Call it the "Mystery of the Missing Memo"... Read More

  5. ILR Research Review - Fall 2017

    November 30, 2017 | Research

    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.... Read More

  6. In the News Today - November 17, 2017

    November 17, 2017 | News

    U.S. Foreign Bribery Cases Fast-Tracked Due to Statute of Limitations Rule - SEC Enforcement Chief; Trump Considers Naming Mulvaney Interim CFPB Director... Read More

  7. Johnson & Johnson Wins California Lawsuit Claiming Asbestos in Talc Caused Cancer

    November 17, 2017 | News

    A California jury on Thursday ruled in favor of Johnson & Johnson in a lawsuit by a woman who said she developed the cancer mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos in the company's talc-based products including J&J's Baby Powder.... Read More

  8. 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

  9. 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

  10. 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