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. In the News Today - November 15, 2018

    November 15, 2018 | News

    Is the Scope of Illinois' Biometric Privacy Law Expanding?; California Jury Clears Johnson & Johnson in Talc Case... Read More

  2. In the News Today - November 8, 2018

    November 08, 2018 | News

    Defendants In New York Asbestos Courts Now Using Jurisdictional Defenses... Read More

  3. ILR EVP Harold Kim: Increased DOJ Oversight Can Keep Bankruptcy Trusts "Honest"

    October 31, 2018 | News

    U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform Executive Vice President Harold Kim told the Associated Press that the U.S. Department of Justice's (DOJ) increased oversight of asbestos bankruptcy trusts will "hopefully keep these trusts honest."... Read More

  4. DOJ "Turning Up the Heat" in Asbestos Bankruptcy Trust System

    October 09, 2018 | News

    Recent developments at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) suggest the agency is "turning up the heat to ferret out abuses and potential cases of fraud," according to an article in Law360.... Read More

  5. In the News Today - October 1, 2018

    October 01, 2018 | News

    DOJ Official: Department and Business Should Be "Partners, Not Adversaries;" "Dismissing FCA Cases: The Granston Memo In Action;" DOJ Objects to Bankruptcy Trust Appointment; Find Out What's Trending at ILR's Summit XX: Law, Policy, Politics... Read More

  6. In the News Today - September 19, 2018

    September 19, 2018 | News

    DOJ "Makes Use Of Medicare Law In Blunt Warning To Asbestos Lawyers"... Read More

  7. Last Week's Statement Shows "New Vigilance" From DOJ

    September 18, 2018 | News

    The "Statement of Interest" filed last week by the U.S. Department of Justice signals a "new vigilance" in preventing fraud and abuse in the asbestos trust system, Bloomberg Big Law Business reports.... Read More

  8. DOJ Takes Action To Prevent Asbestos Trust Fraud

    September 14, 2018 | News

    In a court filing yesterday, the U.S. Department of Justice said the bankruptcy trust created to compensate asbestos-related claims against Kaiser Gypsum Inc. "lacks sufficient safeguards" to protect against fraudulent payouts, The Wall Street Journal reports.... Read More

  9. U.S. Chamber Welcomes DOJ Action to Prevent Asbestos Fraud

    September 13, 2018 | Press Release

    Lisa A. Rickard, president of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR), made the following statement about the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) statement of interest in asbestos bankruptcy trust creation:... Read More

  10. Attorney: Asbestos Litigation Reform Needed Even After Silver Sentencing

    August 06, 2018 | News

    Though the seven-year prison sentence of former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver should help discourage abuse in the asbestos litigation arena, a Chicago-based attorney told Legal Newsline that there are still "strong financial incentives to game the system" that must be addressed through reform.... Read More