If you are seeking an asbestos lawsuit settlement, you may eventually deal with the asbestos trusts that were set up to provide payouts to asbestos exposure victims after the individual companies they worked for went bankrupt.
History of asbestos trusts
The first plaintiffs in cases against asbestos manufacturers filed their lawsuits in 1929. These were the initial salvos fired in the the long, drawn-out war against companies that recklessly exposed their workers to the deadly substance the companies knew would lead to fatal conditions.
One of the worst offenders was the Manville Corporation, which availed itself of the protections offered under the federal Bankruptcy Code when the corporation filed for reorganization and protection in August of 1982. When it filed, the Manville Corporation was the biggest corporation that ever filed for bankruptcy protection. It also had some of the deepest pockets at that point in time, being listed on the Fortune 500 at number 181.
Documents filed in these asbestos cases showed that Manville was completely aware of the dangers of asbestos exposure to the workers. Consider the excerpt from one memo to the company’s headquarters from their medical director:
“The fibrosis of this disease is irreversible and permanent so that eventually compensation will be paid to each of these men. But, as long as the man is not disabled it is felt that he should not be told of his condition so that he can live and work in peace and the company can benefit by his many years of experience.”
Trusts averted the consequences of corporate bankruptcies
It didn’t take long for United States asbestos manufacturers to follow Manville’s lead and file their own corporate bankruptcy pleadings. This, combined with the length of the latency period in which exposed workers remained asymptomatic and undiagnosed, was responsible for the creation of these asbestos trusts. Below is a short list of some of the biggest corporations that manufactured asbestos in the United States and also filed for bankruptcy protection.
1. Forty-Eight Insulations
5. UNR Industries
8. Standard Insulation
9. National Gypsum
The federal Bankruptcy Code was amended solely to address the problems noted above — the insolvency of the companies and the extended latency period prior to diagnoses being made. Thus, companies establish trusts for past, present and future asbestos-related claims that are pre-funded by corporate assets.
Administrators of these trusts then determine which claims are valid and should be paid. Decisions of the trusts are subject to appeals, but differ significantly from litigation through the courts.
Pros and cons of filing with the trusts
Because once a mesothelioma diagnosis is assigned to a patient, that person’s life expectancy drops precipitously, some choose to file with the asbestos trusts because of their reputation for quicker resolutions. However, certain drawbacks remain.
For example, the trusts all value claims differently. According to one Illinois attorney, Owens Corning values mesothelioma claims at the sum of $215,000, while the Manville trust sets a value of $350,000. Regardless, all of the trusts pay out far less than the courts for litigated claims. Another problem is that the plethora of legitimate claims have forced trusts to only pay claimants cents on dollars to leave a cushion for future claims. Recent accountings from the Manville trust indicate that claims are currently paying out at 7.5 cents for each dollar, meaning that someone whose claim is approved at $100,000 would only get $7,500.
One company finalizes resolution
Recently, one company involved in asbestos claims payouts, EnPro Industries, reached a tentative settlement of $480 million to cover all present and future asbestos claims in the United States against its subsidiaries. This proposed settlement must meet the approval of both the courts and the claimants, with a minimum of 75 percent of claimants voting their approval of the proposed settlement. Once that hurdle is reached, the plan could be finalized as early as next summer.
What does this mean for your asbestos lawsuit settlement?
As all good asbestos attorneys realize, no two asbestos claims are exactly the same. Diagnoses and prognoses are predicated on individual health factors, along with environmental elements that can affect asbestos victims’ longevity.
Someone without dependents who has a foreshortened life span and who is experiencing many of the complications from mesothelioma may decide that settling for a quick payout from the asbestos trusts is in his or her best interest. Another individual who is married with children and in relatively stable health may opt to pursue an asbestos lawsuit settlement through the civil court system.
There is no right or wrong path to take when seeking reparation for a workplace asbestos exposure or mesothelioma diagnosis. Each claimant must weigh the individual factors in a case, assess their own needs and those of any dependents or family members, then choose how to proceed.
Your asbestos lawyer can guide your decision
It can be difficult making a choice regarding your asbestos lawsuit settlement. Especially when ill health can cloud your judgment, it is a wise decision to seek seasoned legal professionals with experience dealing with the asbestos trusts and litigating asbestos claims through civil court systems.
At Shrader & Associates, we assess your needs and develop the best strategy to pursue your asbestos lawsuit settlement claim. Our attorneys handle all claims as compassionately and expeditiously as possible to ensure you are treated fairly and compensated as fully as possible for the losses you are experiencing due to workplace asbestos exposure.
If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, or have been exposed to asbestos while on the job, we can help you. At all points during the claims process, we will be there to explain and advise. Whether you ultimately decide to settle with the trusts or pursue a full-court press in the civil courts, our dedicated and experienced asbestos attorneys will aggressively pursue your claims.