Almost 40 years after the first asbestos personal injury lawsuit was filed, asbestos litigation continues apace. The largest mass tort in U.S. history is showing no signs of slowing down — instead the litigation continues to morph, finding new types of plaintiffs and new categories of defendants. While the number of claims against manufacturers that formerly used asbestos material in their products is stabilizing, many limitations on existing trust funds and new bankruptcy filings have induced plaintiffs to target the “smaller players” and peripheral defendants. The asbestos litigation landscape is no longer dominated by asbestos-related pulmonary disease; rather, malignancies are gaining ground. Diagnoses of mesothelioma are at an all time high and, by some accounts, are not predicted to return to background levels until 2055. In addition, asbestos-related lung cancer cases are beginning to inundate the courts. As we near the end of 2012, a review of the most recent statistics and trends may forecast what lies ahead for those companies (and attorneys) entrenched in asbestos litigation.
1. Bertram Price and Adam Ware, Mesothelioma Trends in the United States: An Update Based on Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program Data for 1973 through 2003. Am. J. of Epidemiol 2004; 159:107-112
2. This figure was calculated using the total payments divided by both settled and dismissed claims. Asbestos Payments per Resolved Claim Increased 75% in the Past Year — Is This Increase as Dramatic as it Sounds? NERA Economic Consulting, 1 Aug. 2012.)
3. Projected Excess Deaths from All Asbestos-Related Cancers in Selected Occupations and Industries, United States, 1965- 2029, Based on Study by Nicholson et al. (1982); and Ries LAG, Melbert D, Krapcho M, Mariotto A, Miller BA, Feuer EJ, Clegg L, Horner MJ, Howlader N, Eisner MP, Reichman M, Edwards BK (eds). SEER Cancer Statistics Review, 1975- 2004, National Cancer Institute. Bethesda, MD, based on November 2006 SEER data submission (last visited 10/12/2012).
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