Asbestos Lawsuits And Compensation

Asbestos lawsuits have a long history in the U.S. due to the extensive mining and use of this material. It is estimated that over 20 million workers and their family members have been exposed to this hazardous substance. Fortunately, not all of these people suffer from diseases such as lung cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma. However the latency period for these illnesses can be decades long. This means there are an unknown number of victims at this time.

Timeline And Facts

  • One of the first major asbestos lawsuits was brought in 1966 - the 11 manufacturers being sued won that case.
  • In 1969, the first plaintiff to win this type of lawsuit was awarded $79,000.
  • One of the largest verdicts against a single company occurred in 2001. A mesothelioma sufferer won a $55 million dollar lawsuit against the Kelly-Moore company.
  • Between 1970 and 2002, over 730,000 people filed compensation claims.
  • The total amount paid out directly to claimants over this time period was approximately $29 billion dollars (not including attorney’s fees).
  • More than 8,000 companies in 75 different industries are currently being sued over asbestos exposure.
  • Estimates put the total liability for futures claims at almost $200 billion dollars

Famous Cases


In 1974 the Johns-Manville manufacturing corporation was sued by a worker named Reba Rudkin. Usually, employees can only file a workers’ compensation claim for on-the-job injuries. However, documents came to light proving that this company had deliberately concealed their knowledge of the hazards of asbestos for several decades. By 1981, the California Supreme Court had ruled that employees can bring a civil suit in cases where employers are guilty of fraud and conspiracy. In 1982, Johns-Manville declared bankruptcy.

W.R. Grace

W.R. Grace filed bankruptcy in 2001 to protect itself from over 100,000 lawsuits. In 2008, the chemical company agreed to settle outstanding and future claims for a total of 1.8 billion dollars. In 2009, the corporation was found not guilty of conspiracy to cover up the hazards of asbestos in its vermiculite mine in Libby, Montana. These criminal charges are separate from the civil cases for damages.


This company is facing over 48,000 claims. In 2002 the company attempted to sue its supplier, Union Carbide, for 1.3 billion dollars to offset these costs. Kelly-Moore lost this case in 2004. It was successfully argued that Kelly-Moore actually increased sales of products containing asbestos during the same time period when they became aware of the hazards. The struggling company has threatened bankruptcy.

More About Asbestos Bankruptcies

Many of these bankruptcies are designed to settle current lawsuits and create trust funds. Such funds generally compensate future victims for only a fraction of the damages they would otherwise be entitled to receive. For example, mesothelioma sufferers making claims against the Manville Personal Injury Trust can only expect to receive about $10,000 each. This is one reason it is important to find an experienced attorney who can help you recover all of your medical costs and other damages.