We receive many inquiries concerning TV ads about the “$30 BILLION IN ASBESTOS TRUST FUNDS” available to persons with asbestos disease claims. There are deceptions and incomplete information in many of these ads.
First, mere exposure to asbestos does not qualify a claimant for payment. The claimant must provide proof of two things to each asbestos Trust: (1) that he/she has been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease; and (2) that he/she was exposed to that defendant’s product, not asbestos in general. With some Trusts, there are stipulated worksites where exposure is conceded, but not all.
Second, not all asbestos manufacturers have filed for bankruptcy and set up a qualified Trust fund. A given claimant may have been exposed to products of companies who are still viable and need to be sued in court for compensation. Many claimants have a mixed exposure, i.e. exposure both to companies still viable for lawsuits, and exposure to companies who have filed bankruptcy and which thereafter set up qualified Trusts. Therefore, to cover all bases, both avenues of recovery need to be pursued. Each case must be prepared carefully and individually.
Third, in Maryland and most other states, there are consequences to settling your claim with some of the Trusts if you intend to also pursue claims in court. Settling too early can have a detrimental effect and create an “empty chair” defense to your remaining asbestos claims in court, should you pursue them.
Fourth, various bankruptcy Trusts who do not agree to stipulated exposure sites more often than not dispute the alleged exposure to their product. You may need to produce affidavits from co-workers (or knowledgeable witnesses like insulators from whom we have statements, but whom you do not personally know) to prove your exposure to that Trust’s product.
Fifth, these ads tend to advertise specific terms like “mesothelioma” and “asbestos-related lung cancer,” without describing what those illnesses actually encompass. These are very specific medical diagnoses which need explanation and record-gathering, and often, expert opinion. Mesothelioma, for example, is a primary tumor of the lining of the lung (pleura), the chest cavity (peritoneum) or the heart (pericardium). It is usually diagnosed on the basis of chemical or histological stains applied to tissue removed on biopsy.
For all of the above reasons, you should consult with an experienced asbestos attorney in your area to discuss all of your legal options. Our office had the first asbestos case in Maryland and we have been handling these claims for over 40 years. We can guide you through the complexities of this litigation.