NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Asbestos Litigation: Malignancy in the Courts?

February 11, 2003

Why is asbestos litigation increasing at a time when medical science says it should be decreasing? According to law professor Lester Brickman, asbestos litigation now consists mainly of non-sick people, suing in jurisdictions where asbestos litigation is one of the main industries supporting the local economy. They claim compensation for non-existent injuries, often testifying according to prepared scripts with perjurious content and that is often supported by specious medical evidence.

Consider the following:

  • Different asbestos law firms have different disease mixes that characterize their portfolio of claims.
  • There is considerable evidence that some "B"-Readers (radiologists recognized for their higher level of skill) conform their outcomes to the preferences of the lawyers that retain them.
  • Effective hourly rates for plaintiff asbestos lawyers range from $1,000 an hour to $25,000 an hour.
  • Some plaintiff lawyers charge 40 percent contingency fees in cases utterly devoid of risk.

Brickman believes that asbestos litigation today is, for the most part, a massively fraudulent enterprise that can rightfully take its place among the pantheon of such great American swindles as the Yazoo land frauds, Credit Mobiler and Teapot Dome. He suggests the issues posed by asbestos litigation should be seen less as matters of civil justice reform than as matters of law enforcement.

Source: Lester Brickman, "Asbestos Litigation: Malignancy in the Courts," Civil Justice Forum, August 2002, Center for Legal Policy.

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