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Asbestos Litigation Out Of Hand


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Texas Should Address Asbestos Litigation Reform

by James Cardle

Asbestos litigation out of hand

In recent years, as many as 40% of all asbestos claims nationally have been filed in Texas. As a result, Governor Perry, Lt. Governor Dewhurst, Speaker Craddick and the members of the Texas Legislature will have the opportunity to set the best practices standard for nationwide asbestos litigation reform.

Asbestos Corruption Crisis

The asbestos litigation has reached critical proportions due to overzealous attorneys engaged in massive client-recruitment efforts. Predatory practices uncovered include asbestos plaintiff law firm payments for finding potential clients, payments for "sick" paper diagnoses, and payments for screening companies to deploy mobile units providing free X-rays and pulmonary test with pitches such as "Find out of YOU have MILLION-DOLLAR LUNGS!".

John Hopkins University scientists in Baltimore asked six independent, certified radiologists, to read 492 X-rays submitted by plaintiff lawyers to support their clients' claims of lung scarring in 95.9% of the films. The independent reviewers found them in 4.5%.

An independent study by the RAND Institute concluded that more than 90% of the findings by plaintiffs' experts are wrong -- the patients were either not seriously ill or completely a symptomatic.

The result of bogus claims has drastically reduced payouts for those who actually suffer asbestos-related illnesses.

Some victims have suffered from mesothelioma lung cancer, a virulent, asbestos-induced cancer that kills approximately 2,000 people a year. Most have had asbestosis, a nonmalignant scarring of lung tissue that can cause shortness of breath ranging from virtually undetectable to very severe. The number of mesothelioma and other cancer cases has remained at a constant 10% to 12% of all asbestos claims, while the number of annual lawsuit filings for nonmalignant injury claims has risen exponentially in the last decade.

Recent studies point to more than 475,000 "meritless

asbestos claims" winning an average of at least $60,000 each from defendants, for an estimated total of more than $28.5 billion in unwarranted recoveries. And the numbers are rising daily. More than $10 billion of this has gone to plaintiffs' lawyers.

Bankruptcies Skyrocketing

Asbestos manufacturers were driven into bankruptcy years ago. Currently, lawyers are targeting more than 8,000 companies as defendants, most with only a nebulous or innocuous connection to asbestos. With the filing frenzy so expensive, many companies are opting for bankruptcy rather than to keep fighting.

With no end in sight, asbestos litigation has driven more than 70 companies into bankruptcy. Furthermore, employees and pensioners have lost an average of 25% of the value of their retirement funds. An estimated 60,000 workers have lost their jobs, while those claimants who are truly injured by asbestos exposure have had their awards devalued to as little as five cents on the dollar.

Meaningful Reform

The main issues that need to be addressed include legislation which include:

1.) Asbestos plaintiffs should meet criteria established by the American Bar Association for physical damage and impairment;

2.) Drop the period of limitations in which to bring claims related to asbestos-related injuries to allow for when and if they develop an asbestos-related injury or disease; and

3.) Dismiss all pending lawsuits involving plaintiffs without actual impairment.

Most importantly, asbestos litigation reform will help the true victims and provide common-sense solutions to end what is currently the most rampant abuse of the state's civil justice system.


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