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Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Same Plaintiffs, Different Toxic Tort - Doesn't Surprise Me

The New York Times reports the not too surprising to me story that a cross-check of certain asbestos-claim toxic tort plaintiffs revealed that over 50% are also plaintiffs in silica toxic tort cases.
It is possible that a person could suffer from exposure to both asbestos and silica. But such a high number of duplicate cases is implausible, Mr. Schachtman, the corporate defense lawyer, said. Asbestos litigants who also say they were injured by silica, he said, will have to claim "that they didn't know that they had an injury from silica but they already knew they had a lung injury" from asbestos. That is a difficult argument, he said....
The targets of silica lawsuits have asserted for years that the cases against them are part of a frivolous, money-making scheme for lawyers looking for an alternative to asbestos litigation. Hundreds of thousands of people have filed asbestos claims. That dwarfs the number of people contending that they were hurt by exposure to silica, where reliable figures are hard to come by but so far have been in the tens of thousands.

Lawyers defending the companies note that the number of deaths caused by silicosis has fallen steadily for decades - to fewer than 200 in 1999 from about 500 in 1980 - but the number of suits based on contentions of harm from the disease has risen sharply, with about 10,000 claimants in the Corpus Christi case alone.

I'm sure there are honest lawyers representing people wil serious claims out there. But the big money potentially available for not much work and using the same "expert" testimony has undoubtedly caused some corners to be clipped- and these cases just skim the surface of class action cases in which lawyers get rich while "clients" get a $10 upgrade. The system needs to be fixed.

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