Authorities expose lawyers manipulating asbestos claims cases as a financial scam
Referring to lawyers who scam asbestos claims, Lisa Rickard, President of Institute for Legal Reform is to the point. Rickard claims that mass torts are “easy to manipulate” particularly for those who control them. The long history of litigations related to asbestos exposure where law firms have manipulated evidence to their own advantage support that sentiment.
People diagnosed with mesothelioma resulting from asbestos exposure have fought legal battles and won millions of dollars. But the real beneficiaries have not always been the victims themselves.
The link between asbestos and mesothelioma
Mesothelioma is a very rare cancer that affects the mesothelium. This is the specific layer of cells that line and protect organs such as lungs and abdomen. The layer acts as a lubricant that allows for smooth expansion and contraction of the lungs.
Doctors diagnose about 3000 new cases of mesothelioma each year according to the American Cancer Society. Prolonged, heavy exposure to asbestos – a group of minerals found in rocks and soil across the world- is the major risk factor for this cancer.
The mineral is in the form of tiny fibers which, when inhaled or ingested, can damage the lining of the cells. It takes between twenty to fifty years for symptoms to show up after exposure to asbestos.
Large-scale mining for asbestos started in the nineteenth century.
More than 52 countries across the world phased out or banned asbestos following concerns of illnesses such as lung cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned most products that contain asbestos in 1989. The EPA also has a list of regulations and laws that relate to asbestos-use and safe handling. Consequently, the rates of mesothelioma have gone down since the 1990s in the U.S.
Although regulations minimize the use of asbestos, many old buildings and insulations still contain the mineral. And since symptoms of mesothelioma develop years later, asbestos litigations have been one of the most expensive and widely contested lawsuits in the U.S. history.
Since the 1980s, companies have paid up more than $30 billion in compensation. Asbestos litigations have also resulted in bankruptcy for more than one hundred companies, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office.
Shockingly, solicitors, and not the victims, have been the primary beneficiaries in many litigations fought in the U.K. A case in point is the decade-old litigation in which the miners received £1,000 or less in compensation while the solicitors pocketed more than £115 million.
In this case, the Supreme Court declared that asbestos exposure caused all of the mesothelioma cases. However, the court did not distinguish between the different types of asbestos. According to experts, the blue and brown forms of asbestos are cancer-causing while white asbestos is not.