Excited to be here to talk about asbestos

by James Copland on May 8, 2008

I can’t say how excited I am to be here as a guest at overlawyered — the first legal blog still in existence! I’ll never be the indefatigable blogger that is my colleague Walter, or my friend and fellow legal reformer Ted, but I jumped at the opportunity to come over here to Mr. Olson’s “other” blog (he and Ted are also the mainstays of the Manhattan Institute’s PointofLaw.com, to which I occasionally contribute).

Overlawyered’s long-time readers have doubtless read a lot about asbestos. And we’ve covered asbestos litigation very extensively over at Point of Law. But there’s a lot of new material in the Manhattan Institute’s just-released Trial Lawyers, Inc.: Asbestos, as well as a lot of background for those new to the subject. Over the next week, I’ll be going through both.

I’d urge anyone interested to read the entire report, available here. Those who want a quicker review of some of the newer material should read my column in the Washington Examiner, which ran yesterday. And there’s a good overview of my thoughts in an on-line interview available here.

I’ll be back shortly to begin my walk-through of the report, looking at the underpinnings of the trial lawyers’ big asbestos machine.

{ 6 comments }

1 Anonymous Attorney 05.08.08 at 12:56 pm

Congrats to the Washington Examiner for 1) paying attention to this issue and other overlawyering issues and 2) taking an editorial stand against it.

2 Brian 05.08.08 at 2:49 pm

The asbestos litigation money machine is “Exhibit A” for the screaming need for legal reform. Plaintiff’s attorneys ran out of legitimate plaintiffs decades ago. But that did not stop them. They overtly coached the plaintiffs and planted memories (recall the Baron & Budd coaching book). They also bought dozens of medical “experts” who testified (in return for huge fees) that perfectly healthy men and women might get lung disease in the future, and by playing upon juror sympathies, the lawyers have extorted BILLIONS for US businesses. The love of money is the root of all evil . . .

3 Ron 05.08.08 at 3:20 pm

Ran out of legitimate plaintiffs decades ago? Aren’t there about 2-4 thousand mesotheliomas per year at this time? I believe that number expected to remain constant until 2022. The legitimate plaintiffs are still here. There may be a need to get rid of the non-maligs, but you can’t say there aren’t anymore legitimate plaintiffs.

4 Deoxy 05.08.08 at 3:49 pm

“Ran out of legitimate plaintiffs decades ago?”

If you count number of legitimate plaintiffs and number of plaintiffs actually sued for, you’ll see that the second number is far larger than the first. Even if there are somehow that many new cases a year (NONE of whom are already part of some lawsuit – I bet most of them have), it would take decades to break even.

5 Brian 05.08.08 at 4:27 pm

Re: Legitimate Plaintiffs. Several sources state that there are 2,000 to 3,000 new meso cases each year. Others question these numbers, however, noting that they are based on projections and not actual data.

Even assuming the stats are correct, however, since the year 2000, 50,000 to 100,000 new asbestos lawsuits are filed every year. That means AT MOST 2% to 4% of the cases MAY have merit. The rest are bogus shakedowns by attorneys with millions in the bank and private jets which they use to fly around the country to enable their forum shopping (as plaintiffs’ attorneys often wear out their welcomes in many jurisdictions).

6 William Nuesslein 05.09.08 at 11:01 am

The massive ship-yard exposures to asbestos occurred in the 1940’s. Assuming a twenty year delay before mesothelioma occurs after exposer, mesothelioma cases should have peaked long before 1980. The Rand graph in the report shows a pattern of claims inconsistent with the exposers. The peak in claims in 1979 resulted from the litigation climate. The increase in claims post 2000 is consistent only with diagnostic bias.

The presumption that mesothelioma resulted from asbestos exposure was likely to be valid for ship-yard workers and asbestos miners, but is unlikely to be valid to others. It is valid to presume a particular lung cancer was caused by 20 years of heavy smoking because heavy smoking increases the chance of having lung cancer by a factor of 30 or so. Second hand smoke, on the other hand may increase the chance of lung cancer by a few percent so that the presumption for second hand smoke is not valid.

It is common in the asbestos debate to concede that there still are actual claim from real victims. That concession reflects good intentions more than sound analysis.

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