October 11, 2011

Number of asbestos litigations

Asbestos is a group of minerals, whose chief property is resistance to fire or heat. Given its special property, asbestos is used in things that require heat or fire resistance such as brake shoes, gaskets and other equipment that require heat insulation at very high temperatures. On the flip side, inhalation of a few types of asbestos has a very harmful effect on the human being. It is believed to cause many diseases, including cancer (mesothelioma), because of which many types of asbestos have been banned in most countries.

When its harmful effects were discovered, the United States included a law against it (Section 112 of the Clean Air Act of 1970), naming it a hazardous air pollutant. Ever since this law came up, there have been countless lawsuits against companies dealing with asbestos. The case against asbestos is so severe that, today, companies dealing even peripherally with asbestos have been slapped with lawsuits by people who claim that the asbestos has caused them physical harm or exposed them to potential harm.

Since most of the industries in America have some use or the other for asbestos, there are lawsuits worth billions of dollars pending in the courts; many companies have filed for bankruptcy and are facing heavy liability claims.

The results of a study conducted have revealed that out of the total money spent on asbestos litigation, not even half has gone to the effected or injured parties. Most of it has gone into attorney fees and other costs. It was estimated that, in the 1990's, asbestos related deaths peaked in the U.S. Since then, lawsuits have been on the rise. A few of the cases have involved huge settlement class actions. As a result, many reform bills have been passed in different states to regularise asbestos claims.

While there have been several genuine cases, there have been an equal, or even larger, number of asbestos litigations, which seemed fraudulent, since the clients did not suffer any injury apart from asymptomatic pleural plaques. Because of such false claims, those that have actually suffered from asbestos have had to be content with a lower amount of compensation.
Source : asbestos wiki