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Litigation over injuries due to the inhalation of respirable silica dust in the workplace skyrocketed beginning in 2001, raising concerns that silica litigation would become a mass tort with similarities to the asbestos litigation that had occurred in the previous 30 years. However, the litigation collapsed soon after the discovery of numerous abuses in the procedures used to diagnose the injuries. The uncovering of grossly inadequate diagnosing practices was a significant success for the tort system in handling a mass tort. However, there is no guarantee that similar practices would be uncovered should they be used in the future. This report reviews the court proceedings that led to the uncovering of abusive diagnostic practices in silica litigation. It then identifies several areas in which changes in litigation practices and procedures could increase the likelihood that similar diagnosing practices would be uncovered in the future or prevented from occurring in the first place.

The research described in this report was conducted by the RAND Institute for Civil Justice, a unit of the RAND Corporation. This research was supported by the National Industrial Sand Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform, and the Coalition for Litigation Justice.

This report is part of the RAND technical report series. RAND technical reports may include research findings on a specific topic that is limited in scope or intended for a narrow audience; present discussions of the methodology employed in research; provide literature reviews, survey instruments, modeling exercises, guidelines for practitioners and research professionals, and supporting documentation; or deliver preliminary findings. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure that they meet high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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