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Trial Lawyers Inc. -- Asbestos makes more waves



This weekend the Boston Herald weighed in with a strongly worded editorial based on the report's findings:

What is also needed, and rarely discussed, is a way to make judges control these cases rather than sit back and watch the plaintiff bar effectively extort cash from the defendants because it's cheaper to settle for a few thousand dollars each than to investigate thousands of cases filed at once.

And to correct a misimpression left by my earlier post: while Jim Copland was the one at the Manhattan Institute who directed the report's preparation, its principal author was John M. Wylie II, who had earlier investigated asbestos-suit scandals for the Reader's Digest (Jan. 2007 issue). Now Wylie contributes the latest "Think Tank Town" column to the Washington Post:

...Tragically, real victims -- workers who actually face serious future health problems due to asbestos exposure -- are often duped into signing away future rights for a pittance in order to pad current attorney fees, and are then left with no recourse if they actually become sick. And workers falsely diagnosed as sick face a lifetime of worry and problems getting insurance.

This project has been gut-wrenching for me. As a lifelong Democrat, I long have harbored grave doubts about many tort reform measures because I believed they hurt working men and women. In this field of the law, however, the need for reform has become blatantly obvious. ...

[Both mass screenings and new filings declined after the widely publicized episode in which Judge Janis Graham Jack exposed bogus claims in her courtroom] But when no prosecutions, disbarments and serious sanctions for the lawyers materialized, new attorneys predictably decided to get into the game. In the past six months, a Texas law firm has conducted two new mass screenings in my native Oklahoma. More are sure to follow.

When a few key doctors are stripped of their medical licenses and jailed, when a few key attorneys are disbarred, when a few overly compliant judges are voted or kicked out of office, it will send a strong message. Until then, lawyers have little incentive not to return to the business model that has earned them billions before.

And Quin Hillyer is covering the study for the Examiner, with sidebars on fast facts, recommended reforms, and the views of Stanford lung specialist Dr. David Weill .

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Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy
rmangual@manhattan-institute.org

Katherine Lazarski
Manhattan Institute
klazarski@manhattan-institute.org

 

Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.