It has been more than 15 years since former Supreme Court Justice David Souter referred to asbestos litigation as an “elephantine mass,” the most massive of mass torts in America for decades. Though the U.S. epidemiological peak for mesothelioma—the incurable cancer caused by significant inhalation of asbestos fibers—came and went in the early 1990s, roughly 2,000-3,000 new claims for compensation are filed each year.
Yet recent events have raised serious questions about personal-injury law firms’ aggressive recruitment of asbestos clients and the legitimacy of the claims they file. In 2012, a jury found two Pittsburgh-based plaintiffs’ lawyers liable for fraud in a multimillion-dollar civil racketeering case brought against them by CSX Transportation. The company had alleged that the lawyers had worked with a radiologist to falsify chest X-rays to pursue asbestos-related claims against CSX. (The lawyers appealed, but then settled without admitting wrongdoing.)