Asbestos Litigation-In General

Asbestos litigation arose in the 1960’s as a result of individuals’ long-term, widespread exposure to asbestos which caused serious and sometimes fatal injuries. At that time many asbestos product manufacturers’ failed to protect workers against exposure and failed to warn their workers about adequate precautions against such exposure[1].  In 1906, the first documented case of an asbestos related death was reported when the autopsy of an asbestos worker revealed lung fibrosis[2].  By 1908, insurance companies also began decreasing policies and benefits for asbestos workers.  Then by 1935, physicians began noticing that many patients who had asbestosis were also victims of lung cancer.  Towards the late 1930’s, asbestos manufacturers were undoubtedly aware of the fatal implications of asbestos exposure and by the 1940’s it was medically accepted that asbestos exposure led to asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer.[3]  However, instead of offering protection against exposure or adopting stricter safety measures, many asbestos manufacturing companies attempted to hide the truth behind asbestos exposure.

Asbestos related injuries have claimed the lives of hundreds of Americans since the early years.  However, the litigation that followed these tragedies has been referred to as an “impending disaster” and a “crises situation.”[4]  It is estimated that although 100,000 claims have so far been resolved, another 100,000 new claimants will now seek compensation.[5]  Exposure to disease causing asbestos fibers in the United States and the world has been widespread. Though on the decline, such exposure has not ended and may never totally cease. In the United States, this has resulted in a significant number of personal injury claims over the past 20 years. Rather than gradually decreasing over time, the pace of these claim filings has been increasing.  As a result of this extensive litigation, more than a dozen major defendant companies have already been forced into bankruptcy.  This has led to a depletion of the assets from which severely injured plaintiffs can obtain compensation.  

 


[1] James L. Gattuso and Tim Kane, Ph.D “Fixing the Asbestos Mess: The Senate’s Reform Needs Reforming” February 6, 2006, available at http://www.heritage.org/research/regulation/bg1909.cfm

[2] Roberta C. Barbalace. “A Brief History of Asbestos Use and Associated Health Risks.”

EnvironmentalChemistry.com. Oct. 2004. Available at http://EnvironmentalChemistry.com/yogi/environmental/asbestoshistory2004.html

[3] Asbestos.com “The Asbestos Cover-up”, available at http://www.asbestos.com/mesothelioma-lawyer/cover-up.php

[4] Lester Brickman, The Asbestos Litigation Crises: Is There A Need For An Administrative Alternative?”  13 Cardozo L. Rev. 1819 (1991 – 1992)

[5] Id. at p.1819.


Inside Asbestos Litigation-In General