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NERA has released “Average Dollars per Resolved Claim Continue to Climb: Snapshot of Recent Trends in Asbestos Litigation 2020 Update,” its twelfth annual review of asbestos-related litigation in the United States. Authors Director Mary Elizabeth C. Stern and Managing Director Lucy P. Allen—both leading experts in the economics of torts, product liability, and personal injury—report on a dataset of more than 150 asbestos defendants. Their report describes trends in filings, payments, dismissal rates, and more.

The authors found that trends in 2019 were mixed for defendants. On average, total spending and new filings declined, while average dollars per resolved claim increased. In particular:

  • Average dollars per resolved claim increased 25% in 2019, after having increased almost 30% in 2018.
  • Total payments declined 9% in 2019 compared to the prior year, pulling back from the increase observed in 2018 and remaining within the historical range in spending.
  • Reserves, which had trended up over the past three years, dropped 10% in 2019, almost completely reversing the 2015–2018 increases.
  • Dismissal rates declined slightly in 2019, whereas the number of resolved claims fell 33% in 2019.
  • New claim filings fell 7%, as claim filings continued their five-year decline.

In addition, NERA compared the trends in claim filings from asbestos defendants to trends in incidence of mesothelioma diagnoses obtained from the National Cancer Institute Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program. The authors found that mesothelioma incidence increased slightly in 2017 (the most recent year of incidence data), but remained below the levels of the previous eight years.