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. Trends We Don't Want To Continue: A Look at the Latest Lawsuits and Theories from The Trial Bar

    October 26, 2011 | Video | Watch

  2. In the News Today - November 2, 2016

    February 16, 2011 | News and Blog

    What do you get when you mix two of the most pro-litigation tools in America today? ... Read More

  3. In the News Today - November 2, 2016

    February 16, 2011 | News and Blog

    What do you get when you mix two of the most pro-litigation tools in America today?... Read More

  4. In the News Today - November 2, 2016

    February 16, 2011 | News and Blog

    What do you get when you mix two of the most pro-litigation tools in America today?... Read More

  5. Litigating in the Field of Dreams: Asbestos Cases in Madison County, Illinois

    October 27, 2010 | Research

    The Madison County asbestos litigation story involves the creation of a national clearinghouse for asbestos malignancy claims by first suspending normal rules about which courts should hear these cases, and second, by adopting procedures to facilitate the "processing" of large numbers of those claims. These factors combine to facilitate the process of extracting maximum value from the defendants. The resulting economics, in turn, drive a litigation perpetual motion machine where, so long as the rules are relaxed, more and more cases will be drawn to the jurisdiction. Whether Madison County asbestos litigation will continue along its current course is an unwritten chapter.... Read More

  6. New Rules on 95,000 Asbestos Claims -- a Major Move Against Fraudulent Lawsuits

    June 11, 2007 | Press Release

    WASHINGTON, DC -- U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform President Lisa A. Rickard released the following statement on the recent order by U.S. District Court Judge James T. Giles designed to "facilitate the expeditious movement" of pending asbestos cases on his multidistrict litigation docket in Philadelphia. ... Read More

  7. U.S. Chamber Applauds Ohio Judge for Standing Up to 'Double-Dipping' by Trial Lawyers in Asbestos Case

    January 18, 2007 | Press Release

    Washington, DC - Statement by Lisa Rickard, President of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform on today's opinion by Judge Harry Hanna of the Court of Common Pleas, Cuyahoga County, Ohio (Jack Kananian, et al., vs. Lorillard Tobacco Company, Case No. 442750):... Read More

  8. Chamber: Dubious Asbestos Claims Reinforce Need for Sweeping Investigation

    June 07, 2006 | Press Release

    Lisa Rickard, president of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, issued the following statement today regarding the filing of a motion by asbestos defendants to dismiss all claims from the federal asbestos multi-district litigation in Philadelphia:... Read More

  9. Chamber Applauds Congressional Action on Onerous Mass Tort Litigation

    June 05, 2006 | Press Release

    Lisa Rickard, president of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, issued the following statement today regarding the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee's hearing on silicosis litigation and tomorrow's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on asbestos legislation: "ILR commends both the House and Senate for turning their attention this week to silicosis fraud and asbestos legislation - both important steps toward improving America's legal system.... Read More

  10. U.S. Chamber Applauds Congressional Investigation of Medical Screening

    March 07, 2006 | Press Release

    WASHINGTON, D.C.-The U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) today welcomed a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee hearing to investigate the "assembly line" process used by some plaintiffs' attorneys to screen individuals for silicosis lawsuits targeting U.S. businesses. ... Read More