As 2018 gains full speed, it’s time for my annual look at trends in the nation’s longest-running personal injury litigation – asbestos. You may have peripheral awareness of it due to those “if you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma” ads, but its reach is beyond those sound bites playing on loop.
Actually, asbestos lawsuits are the nation’s longest-running personal injury litigation and have driven nearly 100 companies into a special form of banktruptcy, where trust funds are set up to pay future liabilities. Those funds have become controversial and, in 2017, more than a dozen state attorneys general launched an investigation into whether asbestos trusts were skipping required payments to Medicaid or other agencies providing health care to asbestos victims. (When victims receive compensation for asbestos injuries, some of the money may be owed to repay agencies that provided health care, like Medicaid and veteran’s hospitals.)
We made a landmark step forward in June when reforms to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) empowered the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to finally regulate the most dangerous chemicals used in our nation. Since then, the primary goal of asbestos advocates was to ensure the EPA prioritized asbestos as a top ten high-risk chemical for evaluation and regulatory action.
OPINION – L’édition du 23 mai du Journal de Québec et du Journal de Montréal nous informait de l’inquiétude des médecins devant le retour de l’amiante au Québec. Cet article reprenait les demi-vérités et les projections sans véritables fondements qui foisonnent dans le dossier de l’amiante pour ameuter la population à la suite du développement de quatre projets impliquant l’exploitation de rejets miniers serpentiniques à Asbestos et Thetford Mines.
Je crois que cette charge, digne de Don Quichotte, demande un rappel de certaines notions de base en ce qui concerne l’amiante, notions qui pourront mettre les choses dans leur vraie perspective.
— Manufacturers of products that contained chrysotile asbestos won a major victory in Crane Co. v. DeLisle in September, when Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal reversed a verdict entered against a gasket manufacturer on grounds that the trial court had abused its discretion by admitting an expert’s testimony.
— The appellate court ordered that a verdict be directed for the defendant, where the only proof of causation was expert testimony that was not supported by scientific data and therefore should not have been admitted.
— An «expert opinion is inadmissible when the only connection between the conclusion and the existing data is the expert’s own assertions.»
— The appellate court’s detailed opinion confirmed the scrutiny that judges must apply before admitting expert testimony, and it largely discredited opinions that exposure to chrysotile causes disease in humans.
Yesterday saw the launch of yet another scare campaign.
As so often before championed by the BBC, it warned us again of the deadly dangers posed by asbestos — this time in Britain’s schools.
In the past 30 years, it was claimed on Radio 4’s Today programme, 178 teachers have died of asbestos-related diseases — and their numbers are rising all the time.
Steps must be taken to protect pupils and teachers from asbestos in schools, a new study has warned.
Alabama’s Attorney General is joining colleagues from 12 other states in investigating asbestos bankruptcy trusts’ failure to pay out Medicaid payments as federal law requires.
Lawsuits have sent more than 60 manufacturers of asbestos or asbestos-containing products into bankruptcy and have paid out more than $17 billion since 2008.
New York has cut a worm out of the Big Apple with the conviction of corrupt former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, but its courts are still rotten to the core when it comes to asbestos litigation, according to a new report.
The American Tort Reform Association’s 2016 “Judicial Hellholes” report ranks New York City’s special asbestos-litigation division as the third most friendly to plaintiffs in the nation.
As Harvard continues to renew the College’s undergraduate Houses, “several” of these decades-old buildings on campus contain asbestos, a potentially carcinogenic chemical that was once regularly used for construction.
Presence of asbestos in the Houses, though, is not a concern to administrators, who say that it is unlikely the chemical will pose any sort of health risks to students.
Last year, then-Winthrop resident Matthew W.G. Walker ’16 returned to his dorm room to find it covered in asbestos-laced dust that had fallen from the ceiling of his room. Though the discovery of asbestos kicked off a flurry of discussion about asbestos at Winthrop, many of Harvard’s older buildings contain asbestos, according to administrators.
A bill that would revise disclosure requirements in the nation’s asbestos-related personal injury trust fund system is being hailed by its supporters for bringing much-needed transparency to the process, while opponents charge it will needlessly expose asbestos victims’ vital information.
On March 9 on a 220-201 vote, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 985, The Fairness in Class Action Litigation and Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act of 2017, or FACT, which seeks, in part, to end so-called “double dipping,” where the bill’s supporters say an individual makes multiple claims against multiple asbestos trusts that were established to compensate asbestos victims.
ABC News reported on 27 March that Australia’s water consumers –just about every one of us – face an $8 billion bill to replace some 40,000kms of water pipes made with asbestos cement that are nearing the end of their useful life.
That was hardly news, as a quick Google search would have revealed; the problem has been known of years. However, as the ABC article said, these ageing pipes don’t represent a health hazard. The Foundation for Water Research reported back in 2002 that the World Health Organisation had looked at the problem in 1993, and concluded there was nothing to worry about.
A lack of transparency between the asbestos bankruptcy trust system and the courts can lead to inflated recoveries for claimants and their lawyers, a problem that’s not only unfair to solvent companies but to future claimants as well, according to a report released today by the Illinois Civil Justice League (ICJL).
Legislation requiring reasonable disclosure of claimants’ exposure between the two systems is necessary, the report concludes.
“In recent years, a growing national debate over ‘trust transparency’ has risen to the forefront of asbestos litigation and is currently a prominent issue facing the Illinois judiciary and legislature,” it states. “The debate centers on the emergence of asbestos trusts as a substantial, alternative compensation system for asbestos claimants, and the failure of the tort and trust systems to integrate.”
The meetings of the conferences of the parties of Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm conventions regulating the transportation and disposal of hazardous waste, the trade of hazardous chemical substances and pesticides, and the use of persistent organic pollutants are carried out in Geneva (Switzerland) in the period April 24 — May 5.
The regulation on the turnover of chemical substances and waste is the main topic.
The use of chrysotile asbestos in construction and industry is expected to be discussed at the eighth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Rotterdam Convention. The anti-asbestos lobby, with the purpose of self-promotion, operating with anti-scientific facts, and the engaged environmental organizations and asbestos litigation law firms, basing their arguments on falsified data, will try to convince member states to include chrysotile asbestos into the list of severely restricted and banned chemicals and pesticides.
Asbestos trust funds set up to provide financial support for people suffering from asbestos-related illnesses are being sapped by bogus claims and frivolous lawsuits. The same shady cash grabs that are taking money from deserving asbestos victims are also threatening businesses like mine.
Ambulance-chasing lawyers are teaming up with people who may or may not have had contact with asbestos to drain the trust funds dry.
These trusts are largely financed by companies driven to bankruptcy by asbestos litigation. One day, as a result of the increasing number of phony claims, the trust funds will no longer have money to pay legitimate claimants battling mesothelioma and other asbestos-related ailments.
A ceremonial meeting of the International Alliance of Trade Union Organizations «Chrysotile» was held on the premises of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia, Moscow. The representatives of countries — members of the alliance (trade union leaders, scientists and medical professionals) took part in the event.
WEST PALM BEACH – On Nov. 9, Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal refused to reconsider its Sept. 14 decision to overturn a 2013 $8 million award to Richard DeLisle, who sued multiple companies, including R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Crane Co., for his mesothelioma diagnosis.
«(Delisle claimed) he developed mesothelioma from smoking Kent cigarettes with asbestos-containing filters in the 1950s,” a Nov. 17 article from CVN said. “DeLisle, who worked as a pipe fitter in the 1960s, also partially attributed his asbestos exposure to gaskets manufactured by Crane Co.»
After the 2013 decision to award DeLisle one of the largest suits against a tobacco company and cigarette manufacturer with regards to an asbestos claim from smoking, R.J. Reynolds and Crane both submitted appeals, claiming that expert evidence provided in the 2013 trial was not valid.
By Dionne Searcey, Anemona Hartocollis, Russ Buettner And David W. Chen
In the criminal complaint against Sheldon Silver, he is identified simply as “Doctor1.”
But Dr. Robert N. Taub, who headed a Columbia University center dedicated to curing a rare form of cancer caused by asbestos, is no ordinary doctor.
With a reputation as a devoted clinician intent on trying out innovative therapies, Dr. Taub is something of a hero in the world of mesothelioma, a devastating cancer that is nearly always fatal. Specializing in abdominal cases, a particularly horrific form of the disease, Dr. Taub, 78, attracted lastchance patients from across the country and the world.
The balding, bowtied oncologist would then seem to be the unlikeliest of candidates to become caught up in a criminal scheme that may lead to the downfall of Mr. Silver, the longtime speaker of the New York State Assembly and one of the state’s most powerful politicians.
Asbestos attorneys are feeling the earth move under their feet, they’re feeling the sky tumbling down, a-tumbling down, and they can’t get that Carole King tune out of their heads.
Next in the never-ending, ever-unsettling subconscious queue: the Fifth Dimension and the Beatles.
A year after his corruption conviction, ex-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s influence is still harming our courts.
The American Tort Reform Foundation now ranks New York City’s Asbestos Litigation court as its No. 3 “Judicial Hellhole,” after St. Louis and the state of California.
The ATRF report notes that the court favors plaintiffs even more than it did before Silver’s fall. Defendants continue to face liability beyond their level of responsibility.
WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) — A bill that targets the country’s current asbestos injury compensation system has been quietly reintroduced by a Texas federal lawmaker who is hoping President Trump is more receptive than his predecessor.
U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, a Republican who serves on the House Judiciary Committee and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, re-submitted the GOP-backed bill last week. Reps. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and Tom Marino, R-Pa., are listed as cosponsors.
The carcinogenic substance is in 10% of piping, but no evidence this piping is dangerous
Asbestos can be found in approximately 6,300km of Ireland’s water mains, but there is no evidence to show that the use of this type of piping is dangerous, according to Irish Water.
On November 29, EPA announced that it will review the hazard and exposure risks caused by asbestos. Asbestos will be one of the first ten substances to be evaluated under the TSCA amendments commonly referred to as the Lautenberg Act. As we have discussed elsewhere, TSCA now requires EPA to produce a risk evaluation work plan for these substances by June 2017 and complete its evaluation within three years following. If EPA determines any of these substances pose unreasonable risks, then EPA must take further action to mitigate any risks.
Asbestos is different from the other substances on EPA’s list and poses different challenges from the others, which all are more traditional industrial chemicals. In contrast to the other chemicals, “asbestos” is not really manufactured itself even when it’s used in products because in raw form it exists in nature; has been the focus of massive product liability litigation for a generation; and presents a different set of compliance challenges for industry.
Certain types of “asbestos” — usually defined as a group of silicate minerals with fibrous properties—have historically been component parts of many industrial products because asbestos functions as an insulator. Litigation over asbestos-containing products has driven more than 100 companies bankrupt. Plaintiffs in these cases argue that asbestos in commercial products causes chronic health conditions like asbestosis and mesothelioma.
PHILADELPHIA (CN) – Describing a far-reaching conspiracy in asbestos litigation, an Illinois manufacturer brought a federal complaint against a Pennsylvania law firm that brags about the number of multimillion-dollar verdicts and settlements it has won for mesothelioma clients.
Shein Law Center and its principal, Benjamin Shein, are described in the May 15 complaint as having focused on asbestos cases since the firm’s founding in 1994, representing 15 to 20 personal-injury plaintiffs a year.
Shein has not returned a request for comment about the federal complaint filed against him in Philadelphia by one of his former court adversaries, John Crane Inc.
A showdown in an Austin courtroom Tuesday may unseal the 20 year old deposition of renowned plaintiff’s attorney Russell Budd that might help lead to the exposure of the illegitimacy of thousands of asbestos lawsuits. We have all seen the ads from the most high-profile and politically connected law firms in America seeking mesothelioma plaintiffs – but now it is coming to light how these attorneys may have been engaged in corrupt conspiracies
Tort reform has always seemed a solution that can cause worse problems than it solves. True, plaintiffs’ lawyers are often predatory characters, yet they provide legal services, and some measure of purported justice, to clients of limited means. If we take away their highly lucrative contingency fees, or hurl endless obstacles to curb their avid marketing schemes, millions of Americans will simply be deprived of access to effective representation.
A California jury on Thursday ruled in favor of Johnson & Johnson in a lawsuit by a woman who said she developed the cancer mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos in the company’s talc-based products including J&J’s Baby Powder.
The Los Angeles Superior Court jury’s verdict came in the first trial centering on claims that J&J’s talc products contained asbestos. J&J is separately battling thousands of cases claiming those products can also cause ovarian cancer.
The verdict came in a lawsuit by Tina Herford, who said she developed mesothelioma after using J&J talcum powder products that her lawyers claimed contained asbestos.
According to the Republican presidential nominee, the anti-asbestos movement is a conspiracy rigged by the mob. Yes, the mob.
For nearly five months, people around the country have been campaigning for or against Donald Trump. As one of the most polarizing presidential candidates of the century, we’ve watched debate after debate, commercial after commercial and repeatedly said, “Wow.”
Removing asbestos from buildings is often an unnecessary expense and done in a panic, according to a document published on Thursday by Alkmaar’s mayor, two housing corporations and a university professor.
Removing asbestos on a major scale is expensive but does not generate much in terms of improved health, the writers say in their pamphlet. ‘If tenants could choose, they would rather have their home made more energy efficient or go for a new bathroom or kitchen than have asbestos removed,’ the pamphlet states.
Authorities have sought to reassure Cranleigh residents their drinking water remains safe despite concerns about asbestos cement water pipes.
Cranleigh Civic Society (CCS) says 29% of the village’s drinking water is supplied by pipes comprised of old asbestos cement pipes and held a public meeting to discuss the matter last month.
Both the Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) and Thames Water say there is no reason for concern.
The Missouri House has passed legislation to change the rules for lawsuits over asbestos exposure, an effort praised by supporters as a way to stop plaintiffs from being overcompensated but criticized by others as limiting access to justice for those with illnesses such as mesothelioma.
The measure, approved 96-48, would require plaintiffs alleging harm from asbestos to file claims against every potentially liable company or bankrupt company’s trust fund at once. Currently, those injured from the carcinogen could win compensation from one company and then, at a later time pursue another claim against a different defendant.
There was no single cause of the tragic 24-story Grenfell Tower conflagration in London. The British newspaper The Telegraph lists eight factors, including lack of dual staircases, lack of sprinklers both outside and inside, and sub-standard fire doors—none of which at this time appear to have violated the law. But nothing contributed more to the sheer speed of the spread, blocking both exits and preventing rescues, and hence the horrific death toll, than what’s called “cladding.” That’s a covering or coating on the structure.
According to The Telegraph, fire safety experts warned as much as 18 years ago that the cladding used on buildings such as Grenfell Tower—used to improve both energy efficiency and aesthetics—posed a deadly threat because it essentially turns a high-rise into a chimney, funneling the heat upwards. Why? Partly it’s “breathing space” between cladding panels allowing oxygen to enter and partly because the cladding was made of aluminum and . . . polyethylene. “Ethyl” means a petroleum byproduct. And while petroleum byproducts may be good for heating and cooling insulation, petroleum burns.
For fire protection nothing beats asbestos
One expert described Grenfell’s cladding as a candle which is sandwiched between two sheets of metal. “To see a material in 50 minutes across an entire building take flame like this and allow the flame to move so quickly—well this material is quite dangerous and clearly doesn’t perform,” said another. Eyewitnesses reported the cladding actually wafting down in flames and striking people. There is polyethylene cladding more heat resistant than Grenfell’s, but it would have been slightly more expensive (by $2.55 per square meter) and hence bypassed in favor of the cheaper materials.
A Texas judge’s refusal to unseal testimony given by renowned plaintiffs attorney Russell Budd on the “Terrell memo” was a “travesty,” says the lawyer who filed the motion to unseal it on behalf of a documentary filmmaker.
Late last year, Christine Biederman, a Dallas lawyer and freelance journalist working on behalf of a documentary filmmaker, intervened in a 24-year old asbestos suit filed in Travis County, seeking to unearth the deposition of Budd, the current president of Baron & Budd — a Dallas-based law firm specializing in toxic torts.
Was it a quid quo pro? A physician testifying this week in the trial of a former New York legislative leader accused of misusing his office to get millions in law firm referral fees didn’t expressly say so.
But Dr. Robert Taub did tell the jury that he hoped by referring asbestos patients to a law firm for which the defendant, former state Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver, was counsel to strengthen a “relationship” with Silver and “incentivize” him to fund asbestos research, reports Newsday (sub. req.). An earlier Newsday (sub. req.) story provides additional details.
Like numerous other businesses across the country, a small, long-established Hertfordshire building firm has been threatened with bankruptcy over events which allegedly took place 50 years ago – all because of a controversial judgment by the Supreme Court in 2011 which, as I warned at the time, was based on a disastrous scientific error. Based on no scientific evidence, the judges ruled in effect that all cases of mesothelioma, a nasty form of cancer, are caused by exposure to “asbestos”.
Had the judges heard any proper scientific evidence, they would firstly have known that up to 25 per cent of mesotheliomas occur naturally. But they would also have learnt the vital distinction between two very different minerals which are both loosely and unscientifically known as “asbestos”.
The “blue” and “brown” forms, fibrous iron silicates, can cause potentially lethal lung damage. But 90 per cent of “asbestos products” consist of cement bonded with “white asbestos”, a magnesium silicate, the soft fibres of which soon dissolve in the lungs and cannot cause mesothelioma.
International Alliance of Trade Union Organizations «Chrysotile» has drawn attention to the results of the research conducted by John A. Hoskins and published on 15 December 2018 in «Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology». The scientist wanted to understand the reasons behind the Grenfell Tower fire, which took place in a London tower block and killed 71 people, and aimed to find out how it could have been avoided.
ASBESTOS present in almost every school in Clydebank poses no risk to children or staff, insist council bosses.
Hundreds of older buildings throughout the country had asbestos in foundations or walls, but remain safe provided the substance is not disturbed.
A list emerged last month of 10 schools and nurseries across Clydebank and 16 in north-west Glasgow – effectively all older buildings – that still have the potentially deadly substance in them.
Nov. 6 — Brazil-based Eternit issued the following news release:
Eternit S.A. (BM&FBOVESPA;:ETER3;OTC:ETNTY) announces its results for the 3Q14.
Demand for construction materials increased slightly in the third quarter compared to previous quarters, according to data from the Brazilian Association of Construction Materials Industry (ABRAMAT) which, however, was not sufficient to recover from the sharp decline in sales in the first half of the year. Eternit significantly outperformed the construction materials sector, with its chrysotile mining segment operating at full capacity, while in the finished products line, production of fiber-cement and concrete tiles kept pace with demand.
Chrysotile mineral volume sold in 3Q14 was 71,600 tons, practically stable (down 1.0%) compared to 3Q13. In the same period, fiber-cement sales, including construction solutions, reached 232,800 tons, increasing 7.5% from 3Q13, whereas concrete roofing tile sales decreased 10.9%, mainly due to the lower demand in the high-end roofing segment, especially in the B2C (business-to-consumer) and building companies segments.
The family of a man who claimed his lung-cancer death was caused by asbestos exposure was awarded $12.5 million by a Manhattan jury — despite the fact that he smoked two packs of cigarettes a day.
The case, handled by the former law firm of disgraced ex-state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, involved New Jersey resident George Cooney.
The worst public scandals are often those that travel in plain sight, and a prime example is the asbestos litigation racket. We’ve been writing about it for years, and now a judge in North Carolina has issued a remarkable opinion exposing just how rotten it is.
The case involves Garlock Sealing Technologies, a gasket maker forced into bankruptcy in 2010 by a flood of bogus claims. Plaintiffs lawyers were insisting that Garlock set aside $1.3 billion for victims of the deadly asbestos-related disease, mesothelioma. Last month federal bankruptcy judge George Hodges instead accepted Garlock’s liability estimate of $125 million and roasted the plaintiffs bar for dishonesty.
Before leaving office, former Minister of Defense Moshe Ya’alon wrote to outgoing Minister Environmental Protection Avi Gabai that IDF cannot afford to halt installation of asbestos replacement parts in tanks and APCs, saying no alternative exists.
Despite the danger of being exposed to carcinogens, the former Minister of Defense Moshe Ya’alon permitted the IDF to continue to install new parts made of asbestos in tanks and armored personnel carriers (APC). Ya’alon insisted on their installation even though outgoing Minister of Environmental Protection Avi Gabai and his staff repeatedly warned that the parts can threaten the health of soldiers and their installation is illegal.
With the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) reform passed into law, environmental activists are developing lists of chemicals they want banned in short order. Asbestos are near the top of the list, as easy targets. After all, it seems logical to get rid of such obvious carcinogens, but it isn’t that simple. In fact, some bans could actually undermine public health and safety.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) attempted to ban all asbestos back in 1991, but a federal court overruled the agency’s proposal. That failure became a driving force for passing TSCA “reform.” Activist groups maintained that if the EPA couldn’t ban such dangerous chemicals, the law must be too weak.
Asbestos were once widely used because they have heat insulating and flame retarding effects and were beneficial in a host of building materials—including roofing, siding, insulation, and tiles—as well as machinery, from cars to spacecraft. Yet, many types have been phased out because of serious health risks. And in 1991 the EPA proposed a rule designed to ban the rest.
When it comes to the selective use of scientific data to come up with unscientific policies, Europe is a world leader. A growing danger for the global economy is that the EU is trying to get the world to follow its lead on important regulatory matters.
The latest case concerns asbestos. Amphibole asbestos, one of the two broad types of the naturally occurring substance, has been generally regarded as a carcinogen and widely banned for three decades now. But only the European Union and a dozen or so other countries have banned the other type of asbestos, chrysotile. Also known as white asbestos,chrysotile remains a $600 million-a-year industry that thrives especially in Russia, China, Canada and Brazil.
That could change soon. At a five-day conference beginning tomorrow in Lyon, the U.N.’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) will review a study of various synthetic chrysotile substitutes to determine whether they are safer than the real thing. In making such a comparison, one might expect the new information on the synthetics to be weighed alongside the most up-to-date data available on chrysotile itself. Yet under IARC’s mandate for the study, handed down by the World Health Organization, no new analysis of chrysotile was ordered.
South Carolinians deserve protection from frivolous class actions and asbestos lawsuits that are clogging the courts with often meritless claims. Unfortunately, the trial bar isn’t interested in reform; this type of litigation is simply too lucrative for them.
That’s why I support H.R. 985, a bill that combines the Fairness in Class Action Litigation and Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency acts to eliminate many of the questionable tactics plaintiffs’ lawyers use to pursue class action lawsuits. Many of these dubious suits are based upon flimsy evidence, designed mainly to generate a settlement and a fee, where lawyers are flooding the system with advertising-driven claims that deprive legitimate victims of the funding due them.
H.R. 985 passed the U.S. House of Representatives in March — thanks in part to the leadership efforts of reform-minded members like Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-Greenville — and is awaiting action in the Senate. In fact, the Senate Judiciary Committee, of which U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham is a member, just held a hearing on this issue recently.
A documentary set to premiere this week scrutinizes the cottage industry of asbestos litigation.
The National Press Club will hold an in-progress showing of “Unsettled: Inside the Strange World of Asbestos Lawsuits” on Dec. 14 in Washington D.C.
The film by Paul Johnson follows a California car dealership sued for asbestos exposure. Because the dealership had never used asbestos, the defense attorney assumed the matter would be resolved quickly, but he was wrong.
“He soon found out that facts don’t always matter in the strange and secretive world of American asbestos lawsuits,” according to a promotion for the film. “In these lawsuits, it’s not always clear who is really sick, how they became sick, or if it even matters.”
With hundreds of attorneys gathered in San Francisco this week for the annual Perrin Conference “asbestos summit,” it seems a good time to note that a new documentary featuring alleged fraud with asbestos litigation earned a heated reception in Texas last week.
For trend spotters, the raucous film debate coupled with comments from the summit may hint at a softening in victims’ lawyers’ opposition to controversial efforts to increase transparency in asbestos trust funds holding billions of dollars for people who will become sick or die.
In the state that some call Ground Zero for the start of the asbestos litigation, Canadian journalist Paul Johnson offered a work-in-progress screening of his “UnSettled: Inside the Strange World of Asbestos Lawsuits” at The University of North Texas College of Law/Dallas on September 20. The after-movie discussion panel included nationally prominent asbestos trial attorneys Jeffrey Simon and Charles Siegel.
In a startling exchange, at least by asbestos-community standards, both Simon and Siegel discounted impacts of a hotly-debated recent Texas law increasing transparency for asbestos trust funds. The issue is controversial in many states and is being debated in the U.S. Congress.
Could Sheldon Silver’s arrest help clean up the New York tort racket?
The corruption charges against former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver have exposed the rotten links between politicians and trial lawyers, and that attention is bearing fruit. Witness the clarifying drama in New York’s asbestos court.
Manhattan Administrative Justice Peter Moulton recently held an unprecedented “town hall meeting” to hear complaints from dozens of defense attorneys who say New York’s asbestos docket has been rigged to favor one tort firm: Weitz & Luxenberg, the same powerhouse asbestos firm that benefited from an association with Mr. Silver.
In the Trump administration, at least, the government will no longer look the other way as asbestos lawyers negotiate lenient terms that make it easy for their current clients to get money at the expense of future claimants and federal entitlement programs.
The Justice Department last week used a law guaranteeing repayment of Medicare and Medicaid expenses to lay down a far more expansive marker in front of the lawyers who negotiate asbestos bankruptcy trusts, which are created for companies that would not be able to survive asbestos liability in civil courts.
The government’s unusually blunt statement of interest in the Kaiser Gypsum bankruptcy, long before any plan of reorganization has been approved, warns lawyers against including terms that make it hard to ferret out fraud and abuse, including confidentiality requirements that make it impossible to determine how much claimants have been paid and the basis for their claims.
A second company has accused plaintiff lawyers of using fraudulent tactics to win asbestos lawsuits, citing evidence uncovered after a federal judge opened records obtained in the bankruptcy of Garlock Sealing Technologies.
John Crane Inc., which like Garlock made industrial gaskets containing asbestos fibers, has asked a judge to allow it to join Garlock’s racketeering case against the Simon Greenstone law firm in Dallas and the Shein Law Center in Philadelphia.
International Alliance of Trade Union Organizations «Chrysotile» supports the decision of the Board of the Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC), the regulatory body of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), to recommend that member countries (EEU unites Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia) develop a unified position on international trade and the use of chrysotile asbestos.
A Dallas asbestos firm facing a racketeering lawsuit has given up on its own case against John Crane Inc., with a California federal judge dismissing the firm’s suit in an order last week.
Judge Consuelo B. Marshall for the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, in her two-page order Thursday, said the plaintiff, Simon Greenstone Panatier Bartlett PC, failed to file an amended complaint.
The American Insurance Association (AIA) applauded the House Judiciary Committee’s passage of H.R. 906, the Furthering Asbestos Claims Transparency (FACT) Act. The FACT Act aims to bring needed transparency to our nation’s asbestos-related personal injury trust fund system. Sponsored, Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX), the FACT Act was approved by the Judiciary Committee today on a vote of 19-11.
House Speaker John Boehner says asbestos legal reform is a priority in the New Year, and it can’t come soon enough. Based on the details emerging from federal bankruptcy court, asbestos litigation fraud has reached new heights.
Garlock Sealing Technologies is a maker of gaskets that since its bankruptcy in 2010 has become a symbol of the corrupt practices of the plaintiffs bar. Lawyers demanded $1.3 billion in payouts from Garlock for mesothelioma patients until federal Judge George Hodges reviewed evidence showing that many of the claims were a sham. The judge in January slashed the company’s liability to $125 million and slammed the trial bar for «misrepresenting» the facts.
Then in October he moved to unseal that evidence, and now we’re getting a glimpse of what has become a widespread tort-bar con. Court documents show the ugly specifics of «double-dipping» — in which lawyers sue a company and claim its products caused their clients’ disease, even as they file claims with asbestos trusts blaming other products for the harm. This lets them get double or multiple payouts for a single illness, with a huge cut for the lawyers each time.
In May, Carolyn McCarthy, a nine-term congresswoman from Long Island, was diagnosed with lung cancer. Her treatment began almost immediately, causing her to take a lengthy absence from her office while she fought the disease. At the same time, McCarthy, 69, ended a pack-a-day cigarette habit that she’d had for most of her life, presumably because she understood the link between cigarette-smoking and lung cancer. Scientists estimate that smoking plays a role in 90 percent of lung cancer deaths.
“Since my diagnosis with lung cancer,” she wrote in a recent legal filing, “I have had mental and emotional distress and inconvenience. I am fearful of death.” She added, “My asbestos-related condition has disrupted my life, limiting me in my everyday activities and interfering with living a normal life.”
Yes, that’s right. It’s hard these days for smokers to sue tobacco companies because everyone knows the dangers of cigarettes. Instead, McCarthy has become part of a growing trend: lung cancer victims who are suing companies that once used asbestos.
The participants of the 8th Conference of Parties to the Rotterdam Convention did not reach consensus on inclusion of chrysotile asbestos in Annex III which is the list of dangerous substances. International Alliance of Trade Union Organizations «Chrysotile» is welcoming this decision and supporting the positions of Russian Federation, Zimbabwe, India, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Syria and Belarus that opposed listing of chrysotile asbestos and insists on providing convincing results of scientific studies.
International Alliance of Trade Union Organizations «Chrysotile» represents the interests of hundreds of thousands of workers and local communities around the world and insists that the safe use of the chrysotile is possible and justified by existing practice and scientific data.
Utah’s attorney general is suing four asbestos-related trusts, including the Armstrong World Industries Inc. Asbestos Personal Injury Settlement Trust, in search of information about whether the trusts are doing enough to prevent fraudulent claims.
The Armstrong trust was established in 2006 as Lancaster County-based Armstrong World Industries Inc. emerged from six years of bankruptcy protection, prompted by lawsuits filed by people suffering from asbestos-related illnesses.
Officials in Utah argue that abuse of the claims process is draining away trust money intended to reimburse states for asbestos-related Medicare and Medicaid expenditures.
Federal bankruptcy Judge George Hodges in February took a bold step against asbestos litigation fraud, and the good deeds continue. The North Carolina jurist has decided to unseal all the evidence in his high-profile asbestos case.
Asbestos claims drove gasket-maker Garlock Sealing Technologies into bankruptcy in 2010, and the tort bar demanded the company hand over $1.3 billion. Judge Hodges allowed for discovery into some of the claims and issued an opinion skewering the plaintiffs’ lawyers for a “startling pattern of misrepresentation.” He detailed how the tort bar was essentially double-dipping—filing claims with outside asbestos trusts in which they blamed non-Garlock products for their diseases, even as they blamed Garlock in court.
— Residents of Asbest and the International Trade Unions Movement «For Chrysotile» organized an event to draw attention to the problems of the chrysotile industry
— Members of the construction workers trade union also joined the flash mob
One hundred bright green balloons with the words «We’re for Chrysotile!» added color to the cloudless sky accompanied by the sound of «industrial fireworks,» or explosions in the quarry of the world’s largest Bazhenovsky field of chrysotile asbestos.
WEST HAVEN, CT — A 64-year-old West Haven man faces up to five years in prison after authorities say he falsely certified an undercover FBI agent for an asbestos abatement supervisor course even though the agent didn’t attend any classes, received no training and didn’t take any exams.
Guido A. Cortes-Rodriguez pleaded guilty in Hartford federal court this week to one count of making a false statement to the federal government, U.S. States Attorney Deirdre M. Daly announced in a press release.
Cortes-Rodriguez accepted $1,260 cash in payment from the agent for the course certification, according to the press release.
Asbestos — the heat-resistant, naturally occurring silicate mineral — disappeared from the manufacturing marketplace over 40 years ago. In those four decades, litigation involving asbestos has been as impervious to resolution as the mineral itself is to high temperatures. When we’ve asked mass-tort litigators «what’s the next asbestos?» some have answered — not entirely in jest — «asbestos».
The reasons for asbestos litigation’s endurance are many, but defendants, judges, and public officials have started to spotlight the role of bankruptcy trusts and plaintiffs’ lawyers’ use of them as both shield and sword. Numerous voices, including state attorneys general and Members of Congress, have called on the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate misconduct and potential fraud. DOJ has a number of potent oversight and enforcement options at its disposal, some of which are discussed below.
Distrust of the Trusts
Forty years of litigation drove companies that mined and sold asbestos for industrial and other uses out of business. Over 60 bankrupt businesses set up trusts meant to compensate individuals who contracted mesothelioma or other diseases from asbestos exposure. Lawyers who represent asbestos plaintiffs dominate the advisory committees of these trusts. Litigation-reform proponents justifiably complain that the trusts dole out payments on minimal proof of exposure and fail to police inconsistent claims that are made to multiple trusts.
Bankruptcy trusts operate parallel to, but independent from, the civil justice system. Plaintiffs’ lawyers can thus file claims with the trusts and also sue solvent defendants that manufactured products or component parts that contained asbestos (e.g. gaskets, brakes). In civil asbestos litigation, the source of a plaintiff’s asbestos exposure often determines the outcome. The plaintiffs’ lawyers know if their clients had additional or different exposures, but the defendants are routinely left in the dark because the lawyer-run bankruptcy trusts block access to claims information.
The «ah ha» moment for litigation-reform proponents and solvent defendants occurred during the 2013 creation of an asbestos bankruptcy trust for Garlock Sealing Technologies. Plaintiffs’ lawyers demanded the trust provide $1.3 billion to cover injury claims, but the presiding federal bankruptcy judge was skeptical. He allowed Garlock to conduct discovery on 15 settlements into which it had entered. Discovery revealed that the plaintiffs had withheld exposure evidence in all 15 settlements and also delayed filing claims with bankruptcy trusts until after resolving suits against Garlock.
The bankruptcy court released a breathtaking opinion on the Garlock matter in early 2014 that documented a «startling pattern of misrepresentation.» It concluded that Garlock’s «last ten years of its participation in the tort system was infected by the manipulation of exposure evidence by plaintiffs and their lawyers.” The court decided that Garlock should contribute $125 million, not $1.3 billion to the trust.
In re Garlock emboldened common asbestos-litigation defendants and civil-justice reformers, and its impact continues to reverberate to this day.
Possible Federal Action
In each session since 2014, the U.S. House of Representatives has passed legislation requiring asbestos bankruptcy trust reporting. The Senate has never passed its version of the bill. The lack of a viable legislative solution has inspired serious discussion about DOJ action.
Civil RICO. One option would be for the U.S. to investigate and bring civil racketeering charges under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO) against lawyers and law firms that have committed fraud in their conduct of asbestos litigation. Prior to filing an action, prosecutors could do extensive discovery through civil investigative demands (CID). RICO accords federal prosecutors nationwide service of process, as well as powerful financial and equitable remedies such as forfeiture, restitution, and disgorgement.
Several victims of the misconduct unveiled in In re Garlock have filed private RICO actions. Just prior to the January 2014 bankruptcy court’s ruling, Garlock filed a civil RICO action against some of the firms involved in the 15 settled liability actions. That suit survived a motion to dismiss in September 2015, with the court ruling that Garlock «successfully alleges that Defendants engaged in a wide-ranging, systematic, and well-concealed fraud designed to suppress evidence and inflate settlement values for mesothelioma claims.» Garlock settled the suit for $358 million, and the complaints as well as Garlock’s evidence have since been unsealed.
In June 2016, John Crane filed civil RICO actions citing evidence of a scheme to commit fraud and obstruct justice gained from the Garlock actions. A federal trial judge held that John Crane lacked jurisdiction to file the claims, a decision that the plaintiff has appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.
Federal False Claims Act. A November 6, 2017 letter from 6 state attorneys general to Attorney General Jeff Sessions urged DOJ to consider pursuing action under the False Claims Act (FCA) «to put an end to asbestos trusts’ pattern of obstructionism.» The letter explained that Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes had issued CIDs to several asbestos trusts seeking information that might support a state false claims action for failing to reimburse Medicaid. The trusts refused to comply and General Reyes asked a state court to enforce the CIDs. The court held the state lacked jurisdiction and dismissed the complaint. Utah has appealed that ruling.
In a confirmation hearing and in follow-up written questions, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee asked Civil Division Assistant Attorney General-Designee Chad Readler about the FCA and asbestos litigation. Mr. Readler acknowledged the issues and the possible use of the FCA, stating that fraud in asbestos trusts was «one of the areas I want to focus on.» As with a possible RICO action, DOJ could first investigate possible FCA violations by issuing CIDs.
Failure of the trusts to reimburse Medicare for its payment of medical care for an asbestos claimant’s alleged injuries could give rise to FCA liability. As with the RICO claims discussed above, a private legal action might show the way. Several Medicare Advantage plans, relying upon information from the Garlock matter, have filed suit under the Medicare Secondary Payer Act seeking reimbursement from law firms that secured trust disbursements for clients. Humana, United Healthcare, and Aetna assert that they covered medical expenses for those who received asbestos trust money.
The U.S. Trustee Program. As discussed in a December 2017 WLF Legal Opinion Letter, the Justice Department houses the U.S. Trustee Program, an office that protects the integrity of the U.S. bankruptcy system. In their letter to the Attorney General, the 6 state attorneys general suggested that the U.S. Trustee «could immediately move to require disclosures from the trusts.» WLF’s paper supported that conclusion.
The U.S. Trustee acknowledged to the House Judiciary Committee that without an «independent policeman,» there are «risks for abuse» in asbestos trusts. The office’s director, however, stated that the U.S. Trustee lacks «significant jurisdiction [over such trusts] post-confirmation.» Perhaps motivated by this belief, three Senators have introduced legislation that in part confirms the U.S. Trustee’s authority.
If the U.S. Trustee is hesitant to examine asbestos bankruptcy trusts in the abstract, a recent court decision may create an opportunity for a targeted action. The U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware has affirmed a federal bankruptcy judge’s decision to deny Ford and Honeywell unlimited access to exhibits from nine asbestos bankruptcy matters. If the companies appeal that outcome to the Third Circuit, the U.S. Trustee could contemplate a role in the case.
Action in the Public Interest
Asbestos litigation has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry. Though the plaintiffs’ bar clamors for oversight of every other successful American industry, it wants a hands-off approach to asbestos litigation. The reason is obvious: they’re the only ones that really profit. Americans as consumers, employees, shareholders, and pensioners lose when companies spend millions to defend themselves or go out of business. Even the asbestos litigation industry’s supposed beneficiaries—asbestos-exposure sufferers—lose when uninjured parties siphon off funds from the bankruptcy trusts.
This DOJ has been rightfully circumspect in using its broad authority. After fulling assessing the situation and its options, we’re confident that the leadership will see the public interest in its taking action.
The Vice Minister of Health (VMH) of the Russian Federation, Sergey A. Krayevoy yesterday (27) emphasised that the Russian produced asbestos posed no threat of cancer. Responding to questions from the Media regarding the controversy of asbestos and its carcinogenic features, Krayevoy said that what should be questioned was as to which type of asbestos fibre caused cancer.
West Palm Beach — A Florida appeals court has overturned a rare $8 million verdict in an asbestos-related mesothelioma lawsuit against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Crane Co., finding that a trial court shouldn’t have allowed jurors to hear testimony from an expert whose opinions lacked sufficient factual basis.
In an en banc opinion issued November 9, the Fourth District Court of Appeal declined to reconsider a September decision scuttling the 2013 award in favor of Richard Delisle, who claims he developed mesothelioma from smoking Kent cigarettes with asbestos-containing filters in the 1950’s. Delisle, who worked as a pipe fitter in the 1960’s, also partially attributed his asbestos exposure to gaskets manufactured by Crane Co.
According to an article, President Donald Trump will likely support the Asbestos FACT Act. The bill, which was introduced by U. S. Rep. Blake Farenthold (R. Texas) in February of 2017, was approved by a House Judiciary Committee as the Fairness in Class Action Legislation and Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act of 2017. It repeatedly had been stalled in the legislature with a promised veto from President Barack Obama.
According to Linda Reinstein, President of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, who opposes the legislation, the Act would make it more difficult for asbestos victims to be compensated. Under the bill, for claimants to receive compensation the asbestos trusts would disclose their private information to the public. This information would include things such as their names, social security numbers, exposure history, and reason for compensation. Furthermore, the bill functions retroactively.
The U.S. House Judiciary Committee has approved a bill that targets the country’s current asbestos injury compensation system and another that aims to weed out unmeritorious class action claims.
Early Wednesday, the committee passed the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency, or FACT, Act of 2017 by a vote of 19-11.
The panel, in a vote later in the day, passed the Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act of 2017, 19-12.
House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., praised the FACT Act’s approval.
A company that frequently finds itself targeted by asbestos attorneys is taking the reins on racketeering claims that allege those lawyers manipulated the system to unfairly drive up the costs of settlements and verdicts.
On Monday, John Crane Inc. filed lawsuits against at least two asbestos firms under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. The basis of the claims is evidence uncovered by Garlock Sealing Technologies three years ago during its bankruptcy proceeding.
We have all seen those commercials for victims of mesothelioma, the lethal cancer linked to asbestos exposure, proclaiming the billions set aside for liability and urging calls to law firms. The litigation has been around for some 40 years, and the running joke is that “the future of asbestos litigation is reform, and always will be!” But is this self-propelled feedback mechanism about to end its loop?
That joke seems to apply to much of 2016. For example, 2015 ended with the headline-grabbing conviction of New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who was found corrupt in schemes that involved getting millions of dollars in payments from an asbestos-focused law firm as he steered mesothelioma victims their way. Their physician then received state funding backed by the Speaker.
More than a year later, Silver is still free pending appeal – a notable case in point for the concept of the wheels of justice grinding so very slowly.
Trial lawyers and Democrats team up share big bucks
Mesothelioma. For most of us, the name of this asbestos-caused lung cancer is synonymous with bad late-night TV commercials imploring those afflicted to sue for contracting the disease. And with good cause. For roughly 3,000 Americans each year, it is a death sentence.
The Attorney General of Utah has sued four of the largest asbestos bankruptcy trusts to try and force them to comply with civil investigative demands more than a dozen states have sent to the trusts, seeking information on whether they are squandering money and failing to reimburse states for Medicare and Medicaid expenditures.
Attorneys general from 13 Republican-leaning states including Utah, Michigan, Wisconsin and Kansas sent demand letters to the Armstrong World Industries, Babcock & Wilcox, DII and Owens Corning/Fibreboard bankruptcy trusts on Dec. 12. So far none have responded, Utah says in the complaint filed March 7 in state court in Salt Lake City.
West Palm Beach, FLAn asbestosis lawsuit that originally found for the plaintiff but was overturned on appeal, has seen the appellate ruling upheld after the Fourth District Court of Appeal for the State of Florida refused to revisit its ruling.
Asbestosis Lawsuit Plaintiff Hopes for a New Day with New TrialThus, any hope for asbestosis compensation for the plaintiff will hinge on the outcome of a new trial ordered for defendant R. J. Reynolds. A co-defendant, Crane Co. was granted a verdict’s entry.
The original asbestosis claim was filed by plaintiff Richard DeLisle, a laborer diagnosed with asbestos mesothelioma, a form of asbestosis disease. The plaintiff charged that his adverse health problems hinged on two scenarios: working with gaskets manufactured by Crane and alleged to contain asbestos, and a smoking habit involving Kent cigarettes, a brand manufactured by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. The allegation was that Kent cigarettes were manufactured with filters that contained asbestos. DeLisle claimed in his asbestosis lawsuit that he smoked Kent brand cigarettes through the early, to mid-1950s.
WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) — Legislation that targets the country’s current asbestos injury compensation system, requiring asbestos trust funds to disclose information on their claims, may be up for a vote this week.
According to the U.S. House of Representatives website, the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency, or FACT, Act is among a handful of legal reform bills that may be considered by the House this week.
U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, a Texas Republican who serves as vice-chairman of the Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law Subcommittee, reintroduced the FACT Act last month. His office could not comment on when, specifically, the legislation would see a vote.
A former New Jersey lawyer has been sentenced to serve two years in federal prison after admitting he fraudulently added defendants to more than 100 asbestos lawsuits in New York.
Federal prosecutors say Arobert Tonagbanua deleted the names of actual defendants from copies of legitimately filed asbestos complaints and added the names of clients from his Haddonfield, New Jersey, firm. Prosecutors say he then sent the doctored complaints to those clients, their representatives and insurance companies.