Each year, thousands of victims file an asbestos lawsuit after receiving ultimately fatal exposure at the hands of callous and negligent big-business tycoons. Just to put the exorbitant number of claimants into scale, a recent investigation conducted by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reviewed 850,000 asbestos injury claims that had been filed from the late part of the 1980s all the way through 2012—that’s almost one million claims in less than 25 years.
While the reasonable conclusion is that most of those cases appropriately documented legitimate incidents of asbestos exposure, the newspaper’s investigation was intended to appraise incidents of fraud. And in fact, it did produce supporting evidence that such fraud was in existence, though at what exact rate of incidence seems to remain unclear.
The WSJ inquest found as many as 2000 asbestos lawsuits, which had been filed against one former asbestos manufacturer alone, with peculiar and unsettling evidentiary grounds that seem to suggest a reasonable suspicion of fraud. For instance, many claims presented timelines that placed the claimant at less than 12 years of age during the period of alleged occupational exposure—a highly unlikely scenario in reality.
Unfortunately, audits like the one conducted by the WSJ are usually left to the responsibility of claim-payers (most often, asbestos trust funds that have been established by now-bankrupt businesses). And it is often argued by attorneys who represent those defunct companies in asbestos lawsuits filed against them that conducting such audits more than periodically or implementing additional theft prevention methods are both costly expenditures—costs that would drain money intended to help victims of malignant mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses.
And though some sources do report allegedly “rampant” fraud and abuse of the system, other research studies have shown evidence that directly contradicts that conclusion. One recent report estimated the incidence of fraud at only 0.35 percent—a negligible amount within the massive scope of legal reach that the modern-day asbestos lawsuit has had.
It’s also important to note that fraudulent asbestos claims come with a high price, and not just for the false claimant. Law firms who are found to have represented those claimants are also subject to severe punitive action—like the firm that was ordered to pay almost half a million dollars to the defendant listed is the original claim. In the end, regardless of how prevalent or rare it may be, the facts show that asbestos fraud is hardly worth the risk.