Preview: National Asbestos Litigation Conference

Today's Cases Fewer But More Severe

Even though numbers are often thrown around, accurate asbestos-related claim statistics are not always easy to obtain. One solution for curious minds has been to attend the annual National Asbestos Litigation Conference that takes place each fall, where discussion revolves around settlement strategies and types of exposure.

Additionally, New Jersey-based PACE Claims Services, conference sponsor, has carefully researched trends associated with asbestos-related claims and taken a look at where things may be headed. Within the last 5 years, PACE notes that the filing of asbestos-related claims has been approaching a plateau. Prior to that, it was all about the volume of claims, because more claims meant more money.

“There were huge increases in filings from screenings and other efforts that would identify a large number of people,” explained PACE Managing Director James Tanella.“Screenings would be set up at shipyards and other locations where workers may have had exposure.”

The numbers that do exist prove it. According to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.), the first asbestos-related lawsuit was filed in Texas in 1966. Through the end of the 1970s, about 950 cases were filed. Then, from 1980 to 1984, approximately 10,000 cases were filed, and some 37,000 cases popped up between 1985 and 1989. The numbers began to drop in the 1990s, picking up slightly at the end of the decade and essentially leveling off.

Now, claims involving mesothelioma have become the core of litigation related to asbestos exposure. The volume of claims is smaller, but the severity has increased. Though PACE says it has the precise numbers, they are kept behind closed doors as research continues.

The Time Frame

Because so much money can be involved in just one case, it is sometimes a better decision for a particular company to choose to settle rather than let the courts decide. This push/pull decision, Tanella explained, is more of a “cash flow game.” Because so many companies have gone bankrupt as a result of these lawsuits, it is a tricky situation for those that are still involved.

Regardless, if a lawyer approaches a company with the statement, “Your product was at a job site where my client worked, and my client is now sick as a result,” then the defendant will have some explaining to do.

Many of the defendants are now spending much more money on these cases than ever before. Although each situation is unique, Tanella explained that the culprits cannot afford to ignore these issues.

The Bad Seeds

Unfortunately, fraudsters attempt to take advantage of the system just as they do with countless other types of claims. Tanella said that any given individual may have worked for a variety of employers throughout his or her lifetime and could claim to have come in contact with various products that have made him or her sick over time. However, investigations reveal that these claims may be far from the truth.

Tanella said it is it is not unheard of for defendants to hire private investigators who can verify if a client has filed asbestos-related claims elsewhere. Additionally, he explained that PACE has created an Asbestos Litigation Database (ALD), which contains nearly every asbestos and bodily injury complaint filed in the U.S., with detailed notes regarding the lawsuit, the entities named as defendants, the claimant’s biographical information, and specifics surrounding the injury and exposure.

This type of information is crucial in detecting fraud, especially in such serious matters. Though we may never know exactly how many people have suffered from asbestos exposure, we can hope that the number eventually drops to zero.

For more information about the 14th Annual National Asbestos Litigation Conference, visit www.litigationconferences.com. The event takes place Oct. 3-4 at the Ritz-Carlton in Amelia Island, Fla.

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