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Increasing Numbers of Asbestos Lawsuits - Problems Facing Asbestos Litigation

There is no question that asbestos has affected millions of workers that were occupationally exposed to asbestos on the job.  From the first groundbreaking asbestos liability case in the 1970s, many more lawsuits have followed, with no signs of stopping.  There has been an estimated 730,000 asbestosis-related lawsuits filed over the past four years with more than 200,000 asbestos claims still pending.  100,000 new claims were filed in 2003 that continue to clog up state and federal courts.  This is a problem that will have to be faced indefinitely.  Since asbestos-related diseases do not surface until decades after exposure, experts estimate that lawsuits will continue to mount at the current rate for some time.  The sheer amount of asbestos liability lawsuits causes a vast crisis that needs to be addressed.   

Many analysts point to the overwhelming number of individuals who are filing lawsuits, who are not suffering from any asbestos-related diseases.  According to a study released by the non-profit research institution, RAND CORPORATION, individuals who are not diagnosed with asbestos-related cancers file an estimated 90% of annual asbestos liability claims.  Supreme Court Justice, Stephen Breyer observes, "Up to half of asbestos claims are now being filed by people who have little or no physical impairment".   

In a scathing report by journalist, Joseph Perkins of the San Diego Times-Tribune, asbestos litigation has been ranked "the biggest racket in American History".  Perkins cites an underreported study published in the latest issue of Academic Radiology, where an independent panel of doctors reviewed 492 chest X-rays entered as evidence by trial lawyers in asbestos lawsuits.  The panel found that fewer than 5 percent of the X-rays revealed possible asbestos-related lung damage.  This contradicted the results given to the court by doctors that were used as "expert" witnesses in those lawsuits.   

The gross disparity in the findings of the panel of doctors who conducted the independent study and the doctors who sold their "expert" testimony to asbestos trial lawyers cannot be attributed to mere differences in interpretation of the X-rays.  Perkins has made a case of medical fraud, as these doctors were often paid for their "expert" testimony from trial lawyers.  Perkins continues to assert that the alliance between greedy lawyers and unethical physicians is what is causing the proliferation of asbestos lawsuits in this country.

The claims of those who are not sick from asbestos exposure are obstructing the courts, and more importantly, are diverting resources from the genuinely sick, now, and in the future.  By flooding court dockets, asbestos litigation also hinders the resolution of all civil court cases.  And of course, the costs of dealing with this flood of cases are borne by the taxpayers, who pay for the overwhelmed judicial system.