Philadelphia, P.A.—A U.S. District Court judge is setting out to clear the American courts of frivolous asbestos suits which started out as mass x-ray screenings. The ruling stems from the practice of lawyers using information obtained from mass screenings, designed to find patients of asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma. These patients are then brought on as plaintiffs in large, mass claims.
“Current litigation efforts in this court and in the silica litigation have revealed that many mass screenings lack reliability and accountability,” Robreno wrote. Citing evidence that has appeared in his court, as well as rulings in related silicosis cases in which thousands of cases appeared seemingly out of nowhere, the result of mass screenings brought on by personal injury attorneys. Robreno wrote off those screenings that processes often do not follow strict medical standards, something which sheds “inherent suspicion as to their reliability.” This suspicion is the basis for new rules that he is proscribing for mass claims.
These rules, designed to weed out cases with suspect evidence or flimsy legal grounding, will require plaintiffs’ attorneys to present each case on an individual basis. This would turn the estimated 90,000 mass suits currently on the national docket into about three million. As a result, plaintiffs have been settling cases out of court much more frequently.
Robreno was appointed head of asbestos cases by the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation in an effort to streamline the processing of such a large number of cases. By forcing attorneys to present a solid medical basis for the findings of the screening, analysts say thousands of frivolous claims will be dismissed. While the ruling will increase the number of court cases currently presented – costing the defense much more to protect themselves – in the long run the number of cases will decrease, as attorneys are unable to present sufficient evidence to meet Robreno’s criteria.