Where are Mesothelioma Claims Heading?

07 December 2006
By Dr. Faten Sabry et al.

Annual filings of asbestos claims have declined in recent years. Most of this decline is in nonmalignant claims, and is principally the result of recent state tort reforms and the impact of the Silica Multi-District Litigation (MDL) decision, which attacked unfounded diagnoses of disease by the same doctors who are used by the asbestos plaintiffs' bar. This trend, however, is not as clear for mesothelioma claims, which are the most serious, expensive, and persistent asbestos-related cases. The impact on future liability costs of defendants depends on determining where mesothelioma claims are heading.

A 2004 projection of mesothelioma incidence in the US reported higher estimates of future incidence than previously projected -- fueling fears that total future indemnities for asbestos claims were currently being underestimated because mesothelioma liabilities were on the increase. 

This paper examines mesothelioma claim filings using data from the Manville Trust, which was formed in 1988 to settle asbestos personal injury claims resulting from exposure to asbestos-related products mined or manufactured by the Johns-Manville Corporation and its affiliated entities; projections of the incidence of mesothelioma; and data on actual incidence of mesothelioma from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results ("SEER") program of the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health.

The authors' analysis of the trends in mesothelioma incidence and filings demonstrates that: (1) the SEER data does not allow for a conclusion to be reached on the mesothelioma trend in recent years; (2) after adjusting for a surge in 2003, claims have been in decline; and (3) a widely-cited 2004 mesothelioma forecast overestimates future incidence by assuming that all female incidence is due to background risk.