NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Litigation Haunts Asbestos Companies' Customers

January 23, 2002

Asbestos litigation has reached the stage of the ludicrous, legal experts charge. Having years ago bankrupted those firms that once produced asbestos, trial lawyers have been drumming up suits against companies that never produced the stuff. And they are doing so successfully on behalf of clients who show no signs of asbestos-related illnesses.

  • Asbestos claims have more than doubled in the past five years -- and in 2001 alone, 70,000 new cases were brought.
  • Eighty percent of the claims are on behalf of people who haven't been injured.
  • Asbestos litigation has bankrupted nine major companies since January 2000 -- including U.S. Gypsum and Owens Corning.
  • Lester Brickman of the Benjamin Cardozo Law School estimates that 30 million to 50 million people are eligible to make asbestos claims, and "maybe more."

Under the current rules, the exposure of corporate America to asbestos litigation is unbelievably vast. Experts report that half the industrial companies in America could face bankruptcy. Defendants include companies that were customers of asbestos makers or made protective gear for workers.

Trial lawyers employ a host of techniques to sign up clients -- by setting up x-ray vans outside factories and union offices, running ads that say "Find out if YOU have MILLION DOLLAR LUNGS!" and even utilizing airplanes to fly banner ads.

Sources: David Isaac, "Asbestos Claims Run Amok: Is Halliburton Next Victim?" and Editorial, "The Job-Eating Asbestos Blob," Wall Street Journal; both appeared January 23, 2002.

For WSJ text (WSJ subscribers)


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