This is the third post in our series on the current status of asbestos litigation. Because of the slow-developing nature of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related conditions, some victims may be at risk of facing serious diseases without the assistance of compensation from the companies responsible for the illnesses.
Although manufacturers knew about the dangers associated with asbestos exposure as early as the 1920s, they continued to use the minerals in countless industrial and consumer products.
Beginning the 1980s, victim started to come forward with diseases like mesothelioma. It was relatively easy to establish toxic tort link to asbestos. Many manufacturers faced enormous amounts of liability to the victims of their misconduct. Those who were not forced into bankruptcy took advantage of a law allowing them to create massive compensation trusts to assist future victims. Those companies became immune to litigation - but their multi-billion trusts remained.
Victims have submitted millions of claims to these trusts. By the end of 2010, the trusts had paid around 3.3 million claims. This massive wave of payouts for serious diseases resulted in net payments of around $17.5 billion.
While the trusts are intended to be able to sustain themselves for some period by reinvesting assets and earning more income for future payouts, observers believe that they may be headed towards premature depletion.
Check back in a few days for results from the Wall Street Journal's investigation of these trusts.
Source: The Wall Street Journal, "As Asbestos Claims Rise, So Do Worries About Fraud," Dionne Searcey and Rob Barry, Mar. 11, 2013