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October 11, 2004

Houston Chronicle on asbestos

A lengthy article in the Houston Chronicle last week described asbestos litigation as "the biggest legal mess in American history." Seventy-three companies have been forced into bankruptcy as a result, with others "sure to join them." A legislative resolution of the crisis remains elusive:

The U.S. Supreme Court, referring to the "elephantine mass" of asbestos lawsuits, has repeatedly called on Congress to come up with a way of compensating victims outside the court system. Legislation has been proposed and debated for years without resolution, but both Congress and the Texas Legislature are grappling with it anew as asbestos grows into a major political issue.

Washington is focused on a proposed national trust fund. Recent progress in Senate negotiations has encouraged its supporters. In Austin, the Legislature is expected to tackle competing bills that would restrict the filing of asbestos lawsuits to people already suffering from related illnesses. One of the proposals in Texas also would allow asbestos victims who are not sick now to sue once symptoms appear.

No one has a firm grasp on the ultimate price tag for all the asbestos compensation and legal expenses. Experts now peg the total U.S. asbestos liability at $200 billion to $265 billion.

Professor Lester Brickman, a frequent contributor to Point of Law, is quoted in the article.

(Mike Tolson, "Asbestos lawsuits create U.S. legal crisis," Houston Chronicle, Oct. 3)

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Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.