W.R. Grace Under Pressure: Asbestos Justice?

By March 8, 2008Briefly Legal

From the weekend Wall Street Journal:

The asbestos lawsuit blob has grown so large that many companies have simply given up fighting it. Then there’s W.R. Grace, which is on the verge of making legal history with a trial proceeding that could alter the federal asbestos bankruptcy landscape forever.

Grace is using the rules of evidence to challenge the many bogus claims of asbestos injury, leaving federal bankruptcy Judge Judith Fitzgerald a potentially historic ruling to consider.

Judge Fitzgerald has to weed out the many false claims from the few legitimate ones, but she does have the tools to do it. The medical community long ago established diagnosis criteria that account for dosage, exposure, and work and medical histories. Plaintiffs lawyers have tried to keep these common-sense standards out of courtrooms, but they clearly belong in any court whose goal is just compensation.

If Judge Fitzgerald does discount most of these claims, it could mark the beginning of the end of the bankruptcy racket. Other judges will find it difficult to ignore the evidence and procedures here. As important, trial lawyers might be reluctant to push more companies (in asbestos or other mass torts) into bankruptcy court if they think false claims may be exposed.

This clean-up would obviously come too late for the dozens of companies that have already surrendered to asbestos trusts now run by the tort bar. But it’s encouraging that courts are finally investigating sham asbestos claims. It’s never too late for real justice.

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