NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Asbestos Lawyers Search for Deep Pockets

December 11, 2002

With many of the original asbestos producers pushed into bankruptcy or to the brink, lawyers looking for rich corporations to sue have had to search further afield.

A new study conducted for the American Insurance Association by Joseph Stiglitz, Jonathan Orszag and Peter Orszag found that over the past two years, filings against food and beverage companies have risen 284 percent, pulp and paper firms by 296 percent, and textile producers by 721 percent.

  • Litigation already costs $54 billion and total costs could eventually hit $200 to $275 billion.
  • The proportion of asbestos claimants who are unimpaired has risen from about 4 percent to three-quarters over the last two decades.
  • At least 600,000 people have filed against 6,000 companies.

Through 1998, 26 companies went into Chapter 11, and another 35 did so within the last four years. The bankruptcies are estimated to have destroyed some 52,000 to 60,000 jobs.

The RAND Corporation figures the bankrupt companies were engaged in 75 different industrial categories -- with recent corporate victims increasingly having only peripheral association with asbestos.

Source: Doug Bandow (Cato Institute), "Costly World of Litigation," Washington Times, December 11, 2002.


Browse more articles on Government Issues