Wall Street Journal Article Exposes Asbestos Claims Fraud

The Wall Street Journal on Monday, March 11 published an in-depth article – “As Asbestos Claims Rise, So Do Worries About Fraud” (subscription required) – which reported on the numerous anomalies in the world of asbestos litigation. Specifically, the WSJ reporters noted the significant rise in the number of claims filed with asbestos trust funds, which have been created over the years to ensure that victims injured by asbestos products are compensated.

The reporters reviewed roughly 850,000 trust claims and court cases filed from the late 1980s through 2012 and found that:

  • More than 2,000 people who filed with the Manville bankruptcy trust said they were exposed to asbestos working industrial jobs before they were 12 years old;
  • Hundreds of others claimed to have the most severe form of asbestos-related cancer in paperwork filed to the Manville trust but said they had lesser cancers to other trusts or in court cases.

The article further found that “at least 312 people submitted mesothelioma claims to Manville while describing the disease as lung cancer in filings to public court dockets or other bankruptcy trusts.”

The Wisconsin Civil Justice Council, one of Hamilton Consulting’s clients, is supporting legislation (SB 13/AB 19) that will help prevent such anomalies or fraud in Wisconsin’s court system. Specifically, SB 13/AB 19 does this by:

  • Creating discovery and scheduling requirements for certain types of tort actions, including asbestos and other personal injury cases.
  • Requiring a plaintiff who files a tort action to disclose, within 30 days after he or she files the action, whether he or she has filed or anticipates filing a claim against a personal injury trust.
  • Defining “personal injury trust” as a trust or compensation fund that is established pursuant to a bankruptcy or other legal action in order to compensate persons who file claims as a result of harm potentially compensable in the plaintiff’s tort action.
  • Allowing a defendant to identify a personal injury trust not named by the plaintiff, but against whom the defendant believes the plaintiff has a legitimate claim.
  • Requiring the court to order the plaintiff to file a claim against the trust and stay the proceedings until the plaintiff produces a final executed proof of claim against the personal injury trust, if the court agrees that there is a good faith basis for the plaintiff to file a claim against the personal injury trust.
  • Requiring the plaintiff to provide all parties in the lawsuit with all documents, records, trial or discovery materials, and other information relevant to any claim against a personal injury trust.
  • Providing that the defendant is entitled to a set-off if the defendant is found liable and the plaintiff received compensation from a personal injury trust.

For more information about SB 13/AB 19, visit Wisconsin Civil Justice Council’s website.

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