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Sunday, 18th May 2008

Trial Lawyers Inc. Asbestos: A Report on the Asbestos Litigation Industry, 2008

Trial Lawyers Inc. Asbestos: A Report on the Asbestos Litigation Industry, 2008
Source: The Manhattan Institute

When the Manhattan Institute’s Center for Legal Policy released its first Trial Lawyers, Inc. report, in 2003, we called asbestos litigation the “longest-running mass tort in U.S. history and arguably the most unjust.” Even as the incidence of new cases of the serious lung cancers caused by asbestos remained constant —for mesothelioma, at 2,000 to 4,000 per year—new asbestos claims exploded, nearing 100,000 in 2001.

This report describes Trial Lawyers, Inc.’s asbestos litigation business line in more detail. A flame retardant originally thought to be a “magic mineral,” asbestos ended up causing the death of thousands of individuals; likewise, litigation that originally sought redress for the truly injured metastasized into a big business that in too many cases recruited sham victims to beef up the plaintiffs’ bar’s bottom line.

The business model underlying such abusive litigation uses sophisticated marketing to attract thousands of claimants, generates cases with flimsy medical diagnoses, and packages claims together to overwhelm defendants and courts. Ultimately, the attorneys bully besieged defendants into settlements that enrich Trial Lawyers, Inc., while leaving genuinely injured claimants high and dry.

The overall cost of asbestos litigation is staggering, totaling over $70 billion in direct losses (see graph below) and bankrupting 80 companies. Of that $70 billion, fully $40 billion has gone to lawyers. And as those bankruptcies have moved corporate defendants out of Trial Lawyers, Inc.’s crosshairs, asbestos lawyers have targeted companies with ever more tenuous ties to asbestos’s manufacture. Ironically, then, much of modern asbestos litigation has involved the filing of lawsuits by individuals who aren’t sick against companies that never made the product alleged to have caused their sickness. Asbestos litigation today is thus exceptionally costly, extremely inefficient, and unfair to defendants and legitimate plaintiffs alike.

+ Full Report (PDF; 4.5 MB)


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