New Report: Newport News Asbestos Cases are Examples of Broken Legal System

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Litigation Abuses Unfair to Future Victims and Companies

December 07, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A new whitepaper released today highlights how lawyers for asbestos victims in Newport News, VA, routinely manipulate court cases to force solvent companies to pay for injuries caused by other, bankrupt companies.

The paper, Disconnects & Double-Dipping, provides several examples in which asbestos plaintiffs and their lawyers failed to identify exposures to bankrupt companies’ asbestos products until after collecting large multi-million dollar jury awards or settlements from solvent companies. As a result of this scheme, asbestos plaintiffs “double-dip” by collecting through court cases and again from large trust funds set up by bankrupt companies.

The paper was commissioned by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR).

“The lack of transparency in the Newport News courts allows plaintiffs’ lawyers to game the system, squeeze extra money out of businesses and finite trust funds, and maximize their own fees on these cases,” said Lisa A. Rickard, president of ILR.

“This is not a victimless behavior,” Rickard added. “Abuse today leaves less for future claimants, and creates economic damage when companies are forced to pay more than their fair share.” 

Newport News is home to many asbestos cases because it is a major shipbuilding center and asbestos was widely used in that industry. According to the paper, 732 asbestos cases were filed in the Circuit Court for the City of Newport News from January 2013 until September of this year.

The paper explains that a growing number of states have passed “transparency” legislation to stop abuses like those found in the Newport News courts and encourages the Virginia legislature to enact similar reforms.

ILR seeks to promote civil justice reform through legislative, political, judicial, and educational activities at the global, national, state, and local levels.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations.