PHILADELPHIA — A federal judge has approved a settlement in a massive asbestos case involving 20 companies, making $1.3 billion available for some 100,000 claimants over the next 10 years.
U.S. Dist. Court Judge Lowell A. Reed Jr. approved the class action settlement on Tuesday and it was released publicly Wednesday.
The settlement and class action were filed simultaneously on Jan. 15, 1993, to resolve future claims against members of the Center for Claims Resolution, a group of companies formed to make a joint defense in asbestos litigation.
The ruling affects people who were occupationally exposed to asbestos or family members who received exposure and had not sued any of the 20 companies in the suit by Jan. 15, 1993.
Asbestos litigation has already cost U.S. companies an estimated $7 billion. To date, at least 17 asbestos defendant companies have gone bankrupt.
Under the settlement, consideration for damages would be given to anyone who asks for it, a much simpler arrangement than hiring an attorney and waiting years for a case to wind its way through the justice system, said John Aldock, a CCR lawyer.
Under the settlement, the average range of settlements for mesothelioma, a thermal lung cancer caused by asbestos, would be $37,000 to $60,000; lung cancer, $19,000 to $30,000; other cancer, $9,500 to $12,500; and related non-malignant disorders, $5,800 to $7,500.
"Saying that the approval of this agreement is a landmark opinion is not an understatement at all," said Scott Jacobs, editor of Mealey's Litigation Report.
"Depending on the ultimate outcome of this case on appeal--and it will be appealed to the U.S. Third Circuit--all sorts of toxic tort and other mass tort litigation could be influenced," Jacobs said.
Still to be decided by Reed is a dispute over the actual amount of legitimate opt-outs, those who choose not to participate in the settlement.
There were 236,000 requests to be left out of the settlement, but the settling parties argue that they were unduly influenced by attorneys who are opposed to the settlement.