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Issues with Asbestos Litigation involving Bankrupt Companies

During much of the industrial revolution in the United States and Western Europe, companies mined asbestos and companies that processed asbestos into manufactured goods were well aware of the dangers their product was causing to tens of thousands of workers and their families each year.  There was no question about the dangers of asbestos by the early 20th century.

senateHowever, these companies not only knew that asbestos caused cancer, later named mesothelioma, but they also learned that it would take between 20 and 50 years for a person to develop symptoms of the disease and go to a doctor for a diagnosis.  Once a person is diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma or any other type of mesothelioma, they normally have less than two years to live, even with the most aggressive treatment plan available. 

This is the reason companies were willing to risk the lives of their workers and their families, because they knew it would be decades before anyone found out.  They also knew some would not ever go to a doctor and would die before finding out.   They figured they would rather make a lot of profits in the meantime and worry about the future later.

When all of these workers began getting sick, and Congress banned the mining and manufacture of asbestos in the United States, the market for the product collapsed.  While that ban would soon get overturned on grounds that it was unconstitutional, there was no market for the product once everyone learned of the dangers.  For this reason, many of these asbestos mining and manufacturing companies went out of business and declared bankruptcy in the process.

As discussed in a recent news feature from Business Insurance, the bankruptcy courts made these companies set aside funds to pay out future asbestos claims and also required their insurance carries to pay for a lot of the damages in these lawsuits.

However, some insurance companies claim that they have already paid out the maximum on their policy and were not prepared to pay any more claims.  This created a problem, and in some cases, such as a recent one involving a claim with AIG, the federal court sided on behalf of the insurance company.

It is important to note that this ruling, and even others like it, may not necessarily reduce the amount of money to be paid out to future claimants, but rather cause the company who acquired the bankrupt entity to pay out of another fund.  This can be one of the more complex areas in dealing with mesothelioma injury claims, and you want to make sure your attorney has experience with these matters. There were also a number of insurance companies that are no longer in business.  This is not to say the insurance industry is not doing well, since they collect over $3 trillion in premiums each year (more that the GDP of many nations), but the companies once in the business of insuring asbestos producers are generally no longer in business.

If you or a loved one is diagnosed with mesothelioma in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at 1-888-367-2900.

Additional Resources:

AIG, Travelers units not liable for payment on asbestos claims, June 8, 2016, Business Insurance, By Judy Greenwald

More Blog Entries:

Holyoke Energy Company Gets Tax Incentive for Expansion and Asbestos Abatement, April 2, 2016, Boston Asbestos Lawyer Blog