Resolving the 'Elephantine Mass'

7 Pages Posted: 23 Feb 2004

See all articles by Michelle J. White

Michelle J. White

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)


Is there a fair way for policymakers to free the American economy from the specter of never-ending asbestos litigation?

Even though the number of cancer deaths attributed to asbestos exposure has been dropping since 1992, some 80 firms linked to asbestos production and use have gone bankrupt, and some $54 billion has been paid out in compensation to sufferers of various asbestos-related illnesses, the number of new asbestos-related claims has begun rising in recent years. Unlike other mass torts, asbestos litigation has no natural ending point because the number of plaintiffs and potential defendants is virtually unlimited - bankrupt asbestos manufacturers are replaced as defendants by firms that sold or installed asbestos-containing products, manufacturers whose products incorporated an asbestos-containing component, or owners of production facilities that had asbestos insulation in their buildings. Needless to say, this litigation and potential future litigation poses a severe threat to the U.S. economy. Is there a way to resolve all this litigation efficiently and, at the same time, fairly compensate plaintiffs and potential plaintiffs?

Keywords: Asbestos, asbestos litigation, tort law, mass torts, tort reform

JEL Classification: K41, K13

Suggested Citation

White, Michelle J., Resolving the 'Elephantine Mass'. Available at SSRN:

Michelle J. White (Contact Author)

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Department of Economics ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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