There have been hundreds of thousands of liability claims against asbestos companies and manufacturers of asbestos products over the past thirty years. There have also been thousands of settlements, both of law suits and of claims filed against trust funds established by some companies to pay off claims without a court fight.
The Asbestos Companies’ Settlement Trust Funds
As of early 2009 over one hundred companies have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in order to seek protection from the flood of liability claims associated with asbestos. These companies include firms that mined asbestos, that manufactured asbestos products and employers whose factories, facilities or contracting jobs caused asbestos exposure for large numbers of employees.
Many of these companies established asbestos trust funds to pay off mesothelioma settlements as part of their bankruptcy agreement. In order to come out of bankruptcy, the firms agreed with the court and with all plaintiffs suing them on establishing a trust fund with a certain amount of money in it that would be set aside to retire claims from mesothelioma and asbestosis patients, along with others that suffered asbestos related health problems.
Once all parties agreed on a fund amount, the court declared that amount to be the limit of the company’s liability with regard to asbestos claims. The company was then free to come out of bankruptcy and resume business as usual.
Mesothelioma Settlements with Trust Funds
There are many of these trust funds now in existence, and they seem to have contributed to a jump in the number of claims being filed. One major asbestos product manufacturer, Owens Corning, had paid out over $220 million in claims to 70,000 claimants by 2006. At that point they were facing over a quarter of a million additional claims to process.
Mesothelioma patients generally get preferential treatment on both administrative claims such as these with the trust funds and with the courts if there is a lawsuit involved. The average survival rate for people diagnosed with mesothelioma is between twelve and eighteen months, and the judicial system acknowledges that fact.
Mesothelioma Lawsuit Settlements
Legal action is still very much a part of the asbestos compensation picture. Today an attorney with a client that has clearly suffered health problems due to asbestos exposure will usually file several legal actions. There will be claims filed with multiple trust funds, because no one can be exactly sure which product provided the asbestos exposure that resulted in the plaintiff inhaling tiny asbestos fibers and ultimately, developing asbestosis or mesothelioma.
Often that same attorney will name several companies as defendants because, once again, there may be some evidence that they were liable either as a product manufacturer or a former employer. Most companies are willing to settle these cases because they fear the possibility of a major damage and punitive award being brought against them.
There have been judgments in mesothelioma liability cases where the jury awarded tens of millions of dollars to a single plaintiff. That has put enough fear in asbestos companies that settlements look attractive both for financial protection and to spare themselves the legal costs.
Class Action Mesothelioma Settlements
Many attorneys attempt to assemble a group of clients with asbestos claims and file a class action suit against one or more company for possible harm done to their clients. In these situations with multiple plaintiffs a settlement may reflect medical costs, loss of wages and other personal damages for each individual. The sum paid each client may be negotiated on an individual basis, but the legal action goes forward as a single hearing or trial.
Because of the number of asbestos related lawsuits the federal courts in particular have been designating a judge to handle all of them, and these judges have engaged in consolidating the cases in order to facilitate either a trial or a settlement.
Experienced Asbestos Attorneys are Important
The legal landscape for asbestos torts is sufficiently complicated and strewn with land mines that it is important for someone seeking a mesothelioma settlement or a settlement on any other asbestos health problem to engage an experienced attorney. State courts come into play as well as federal courts and trust funds – and the courts in some states are far more sympathetic to asbestos plaintiffs. Some courts tend to see the beleaguered corporations facing these thousands of claims as victims of a tort system that has gotten out of control.
An experienced attorney must know which states to file in, which trust funds will settle quickly, which federal court district is the best choice – and then the attorney must know how to structure the claim, stage the medical testimony and present the case. Asbestos civil law is a legal domain all its own and it requires an experienced attorney to succeed there. Call us today or fill out the brief form on this page to consult with an experienced asbestos attorney at no cost.