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Abstract

The number of asbestos claims filed annually, the number and types of firms named as defendants in asbestos litigation, and the costs of the litigation to those defendants have all risen sharply in recent years. These trends have led many individuals to question whether compensation for asbestos-related injuries is being divided among claimants fairly and in proportion to need, and whether responsibility for paying compensation is being allocated among defendants fairly and in proportion to culpability. In this briefing, the authors examine the dimensions of asbestos litigation today: How many claims have been filed? By whom? Against whom? For what kinds of conditions? At what cost and with what economic effects? If current trends continue, what will be the future costs of the litigation? To answer these questions, the authors describe the dimensions of the litigation through the year 2000, the changing composition of claims, the number of defendants and the spread of litigation across industries, the total costs of the litigation to insurers and defendants, and the potential effects of the litigation on the U.S. economy now and in the future. The briefing concludes by outlining various policy alternatives to the current litigation regime.

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