2019 Asbestos Litigation Trends

Posted by

KCIC recently issued Asbestos Litigation: 2019 Year in Review, which complied statistics for 2019 and assessed them in comparison with the data from its previous Asbestos Litigation: 2018 Year in Review. Please note all data KCIC analyzed for their report was based on complaints received and processed through January 31, 2020, regardless of file year.

The overall takeaways from the update, each assessed at greater length below, are:

  1. As of January 31, 2020, the total asbestos filings reflect a slight decrease of 2 percent in total filings from 2018.
  2. Non-malignant and “other” cancer filings decreased by 32.8 percent and 50.7 percent respectively from 2018 to 2019.
  3. The jurisdictions with the most filings in 2019 remained the same as in 2018. However, one jurisdiction saw a decrease of 49.4 percent from 2018 to 2019 in filings.
  4. The average number of entities named in a mesothelioma filing was 63 while the average for a non-malignant filing was 73.

2019 Reflects a Slight Decrease in Filings

The total number of asbestos filings in 2019 was 4,062, a 2 percent decrease from the 4,135 cases in 2018. Mesothelioma filings slightly increased in 2019 up by 1.6 percent from 2018. The greatest increase pertained to lung cancer filings up by 21.2 percent from 2018 for a total of 1,334 flings in 2019. Non-malignant or “unknown” cancer filings continued trending downward in 2019.

This is likely explained due to the fact that the New Case Management Order in New York City Asbestos Litigation increased the specificity needed in a pleading in order for it to be placed on the accelerated docket. Therefore, more plaintiffs’ firms indicated the alleged disease in their initial pleadings.

Notably, cases with allegations of talc exposure comprised of 13.2 percent of cases involving mesothelioma plaintiffs and approximately 11.2 percent cases involving lung cancer plaintiffs.

Madison County Continues to Have Highest Filings; Baltimore City Filings Nearly Cut in Half

Madison County, Illinois, continues to be the jurisdiction with the most asbestos filings with 28 percent of all 2019 lawsuits, an increase from 27 percent of all 2018 asbestos lawsuits. Madison County saw 1,150 filings in 2019.

The next most popular jurisdiction surpassing New York City Asbestos Litigation (NYCAL), which came in second in 2019, is St. Clair County, Illinois, with 359 filings this year compared to 266 filings last year. New York City Asbestos Litigation saw an overall decrease of 9.2 percent of filings from 2018 with 314 filings in 2019.

The biggest change in 2019 was the continued decrease in new filings in Baltimore City, Maryland, which decreased by 49 percent. Middlesex, New Jersey also saw a significant decrease of 38 percent in filings which is explained by the decrease in Weitz & Luxenberg filings in Middlesex, New Jersey.

Asbestos Filings Heavily Concentrated in Top 15 Plaintiffs’ Firms

The firms with the largest percentage increases in filings from 2018 to 2019 were Karst & Von Oiste (64 percent), Nass Cancelliere (47 percent), and SWMW (33 percent). Further, Karst doubled its lung cancer filings and mesothelioma filings in St. Louis. The most dramatic drop was by Peter G. Angelos, with a 54 percent decrease in filings. Firms with roughly the same numbers were Weitz (434 in 2018 and 424 in 2019) and Maune (271 in 2018 and 273 in 2019).  Interestingly, while the Gori firm is the top plaintiffs’ firm in overall filings in 2019 and for lung cancer filings, Simmons Hanly was the top plaintiffs’ firm for mesothelioma filings with 437 filings in 2019 and Maune with 273 in 2019.

The largest increase in filings by disease type occurred in lung cancer filings, which increased, to 33 percent of all asbestos filings. New York had a dramatic increase of 177.5 percent of lung cancer filings in 2019 — 111 filings, up from 40 filings in 2018.

Asbestos litigation remained stable in 2019 with over filing counts practically the same from 2018. The fact that the average number of entities named in a mesothelioma filing is 63 suggests that the complaints being filed are against the same defendants. It will be interesting to see KCIC’s mid-year review of 2020 in light of COVID-19 and the effect it may have on overall asbestos filings in 2020.