Compensation is still available for victims of asbestos diseases. Though asbestos cases have been litigated for 40 years, compensation can still be obtained by those who suffer from this great American tragedy. The method of recovery has changed and the amounts available are different. Instead of the “old days,” when a victim or their family filed a lawsuit against manufacturers and suppliers of asbestos poison, waited their turn and eventually received a settlement or a verdict against a defendant, now the approach to recovery is two pronged.
First, there is usually the opportunity to file a lawsuit against asbestos defendants, i.e. manufacturers, suppliers and premises owners. These are companies that are viable, operational or legally liable for companies that made these products. These cases are filed in the Court system and proceed to trial, often to verdict but usually to settlement. Like all litigation, the closer the case gets to “the Courthouse Steps,” the greater the likelihood that settlement talks occur and a resolution is reached. In Philadelphia, we have an asbestos trial list and a successful program that permits cases to get to trial within two years, if not sooner, in cases with exigent circumstances. The legal battles in the Court system continue, but the opportunities for substantial recovery remain.
The second source of recovery is through application to Bankruptcy Trusts. Starting with Johns-Manville, many of the major manufacturers of asbestos containing products have filed for Bankruptcy protection. Those companies must now be pursued through applications filed with Bankruptcy Trusts, established to equitably pay victims based on criteria such as disease type and exposure history. Though many of the Trusts have strict rules for qualifying for payment, funds are available if criteria are met. It is estimated that more than $30 billion remains available for payment.
We often hear from attorneys that do not handle asbestos cases, a level of surprise that asbestos cases are still being pursued. The right to pursue a claim remains as does the opportunity for a substantial recovery. The real tragedy of the above is that people are still getting sick from asbestos caused diseases, such as mesothelioma, lung cancer, laryngeal cancer, esophageal, cancer colon cancer, asbestosis and asbestosis caused pleural disease.