Worldwide Asbestos Cases Expected to Rise

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Asbestos litigation is expected to rise globally in the coming decades, experts say. Many factors are contributing to push asbestos litigation onto the international stage.

According to defense attorney Kirk Hartley, who recently spoke before a Beverly Hills conference of asbestos lawyers, judges and other legal professionals, European and Asian nations are seeing increased numbers of asbestos litigation–including class-action lawsuits.

Asbestos use in the United States was mostly phased out by the 1970s, although chemical compounds containing the mineral remain legal. Yet many other countries, including such densely populated ones as China, Russia and India, continue to build with asbestos-containing materials. Add to this the increased awareness brought about by the internet, global advocacy and the international rise in class-action lawsuits, and the legal world can expect to see asbestos cases reach the courts in far greater numbers than previously.

The United Kingdom has seen cases of mesothelioma, the asbestos-related cancer, rise dramatically in recent years. Moreover, the percentage of patients who bring suit against ex-employers or manufacturers has risen 20% in just three years. Mesothelioma is the deadliest of asbestos-related diseases, meaning that these figures are only a fraction of the total asbestos claims being brought to court.

As asbestos use and its aftermath continue to grow abroad, cross-cultural legal partnerships will be increasingly vital. This field presents a unique opportunity for American legal professionals to expand their knowledge of international law.

Compounding the issue is the fact that asbestos diseases typically have a long latency period, often not manifesting symptoms until decades after the initial exposure. This means that new diagnoses are continually being made.

Additionally, entrepreneurial efforts to back legal action are becoming more common. So-called “litigation funders” — hedge funds that have invested in litigation as an industry, and which provide capital to fund legal undertakings – are popular in Australia and the Netherlands. Legal firms which pursue asbestos settlements, therefore, will find no shortage of financial assistance.

 

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