Mythbuster Series: Asbestos Cases Are Not Overwhelming Our Courts (vol. 9)
Asbestos Cases Are Not overwhelming Our Courts
* State courts.
o Among tort cases tried in 2001, only .4 percent were asbestos cases.1
o Among major categories of state cases in 2001, asbestos cases going to trial had the shortest median period for disposition. While the disposition time for other kinds of cases did not change much from 1996, asbestos trials’ disposition time fell by 80 percent, from 50 months to 10 months.2
* Federal courts, accounting for about 20 percent of asbestos cases.
o New asbestos filings have been declining in recent years as well as when compared to much higher levels in the early 1990’s.3
o New federal asbestos filings declined 84% from 1998 to 2004.4
o Asbestos suits as a fraction of all product liability suits fell from two-thirds of all cases in 1990 to only 4.2 percent in 2004.5
o The number of federal asbestos trials has recently dropped sharply, decreasing from 271 in 1991 to zero in several recent years.6
o Asbestos product liability trials account for only a tiny fraction of all federal tort trial terminations, having dropped to only .10 percent in 2002-2003 from .40 percent in 1996-1997.7
* notes after the break
1“Asbestos Cases In the Courts: No Logjam,” Public Citizen, Congress Watch (February 2006) at 12 (citing “Tort Trials and Verdicts in Large Counties, 2001”, U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics (November 2004). This study covers states courts in the nation’s 75 largest counties.
2 Ibid at 12 (citing “Tort Trials and Verdicts in Large Counties, 2001” (November 2004) and “Tort Trials and Verdicts in Large Counties, 1996”), U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics.
3 Ibid at 6 (citing “Judicial Business of the United States Courts,” Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.
4 Ibid at 9 (citing Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts).
5 Ibid at 10 (citing Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts). This excludes a spike in filings in 2002 that, according to Public Citizen, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (“Judicial Business of the United States Courts 2002”) attributes to a jurisdictional issue wherein thousands of cases claiming asbestos exposure from brake pads were removed from state to federal court.
6 Ibid at 10 (citing “Federal Tort Trials and Verdicts, 2002-03,” U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics).
7 Ibid (citing U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics: “Federal Tort Trials and Verdicts, 2002-2003”; “Federal Tort Trials and Verdicts, 1996-1997”; “Federal Tort Trials and Verdicts, 1994-1995.”) (link)