Skadden has just issued a "Trends" report on asbestos litigation, which reports, not surprisingly, that California is one of the leading jurisdictions for these cases. Skadden notes that nationwide, the number of filings peaked at 80,000 in 2002, and the numbers are down dramatically. But the drop-off is almost all in non-impaired, less serious claims. Mesothelioma and other cancer claims keep plugging along.
This one surprised me: according to Skadden, there were only forty trials (by which they presumably mean trials to verdict) in 2008. If that's true, it's an astonishingly small number, and kind of a counterpoint to other data, discussed here, indicating that the civil jury trial is becoming a relic of the past. And 90% of the verdicts were for mesothelioma cases.
And, wow, those verdicts: according to Skadden, "The average mesothelioma jury verdict in 2008 was approximately $7 million." (From what we've seen, the verdicts forming the high-end of that equation are coming from California.)
And, predictably, settlements continue to increase. "It is not unusual for a claimant in a mesothelioma case to receive more than $2 million in settlement from the various defendants." Since most settlements are confidential (at least in California), the evidence for this is likely anecdotal, but I don't doubt it for a minute.
And who are those defendants? In many instances, they are not companies who ever considered themselves to be in the asbestos business; that well dried up long ago. Instead, "Formerly peripheral defendants are seeing an increase in the amounts they are paying in settlement."