The Manhattan Institute has just released a new report outlining the transforming, expanding and always predacious asbestos-litigation industry, “Trial Lawyers, Inc.: Asbestos.” A couple of observations:
The report represents a very good starting place for those unfamiliar with asbestos litigation, providing a readable history of the industry, the real health risks and deaths caused by asbestos exposure, and the rise of the asbestos lawsuit business model. For all its other merits, consider the report, “Asbestos Litigation 101.”
Despite being debunked and punished, the practice of mass health screenings sponsored by law firms continues. These screenings — often conducted in parking lots — almost inevitably and unbelievably found asbestos-caused lung damage. And now? Writes Jim Copland, the Manhattan Institute’s project director: “In the last six months, the Texas law firm Nix Patterson & Roach has held two mass screenings in the now-more-mass-tort-friendly neighboring state of Oklahoma. Like the asbestos screenings of old, the screenings attracted potential plaintiffs with newspaper, broadcast and direct-mail advertising.”
Trial Lawyers, Inc., is resourceful. More Copland in a column in today’s Examiner: “Firms began shifting lawsuits out of their formerly friendly locales and into alternative plaintiff-friendly jurisdictions; Texas asbestos law powerhouse Baron & Budd, for example, began shuffling its caseload to California…The list of target defendants, 8,400 strong, also keeps growing. None of the new targets actually made asbestos; as noted by uber-lawyer Dickie Scruggs — recently convicted for bribing a judge — asbestos litigation today is really just “the endless search for a solvent bystander.
Congress is unlikely to undertake reforms, but change is possible in the states: “Adopting medical standards of evidence can eliminate bogus claims, reforming venue rules can block lawyers from shopping their cases to lowest-common-denominator jurisdictions, repealing several liability would protect companies with minimal ties to asbestos from shouldering the load of its legal costs, and mandating transparency can ensure that asbestos claimants are not double-dipping among the bankruptcy trusts in multiple jurisdictions.”
The injustice inflicted by Trial Lawyers, Inc., is manifold. Companies that had only a passing involvement with asbestos are brought to their knees by litigation, courts are swamped by abusive lawsuits, and the real sufferers are cheated.
But as Copland concludes, “One thing’s certain: Absent reform, asbestos litigation abuse is here to stay.”
More at the Madison Record.