Mesothelioma Trust Fund
Mesothelioma trust funds are endowments set up by companies that either manufactured or used asbestos-containing materials. These trust funds are organized to process, liquidate and pay personal injury claims associated with asbestos exposure, in conjunction with bankruptcy proceedings under Section 524(g) of the Bankruptcy Code. With over $30 billion dollars in assets, mesothelioma trust funds are the major funding source for redress in civil actions brought against companies for facilitating employees’ exposure to asbestos.
History of Asbestos Use
Asbestos is the name given to a naturally-occurring group of six fibrous minerals, extremely light and extremely strong, that are naturally resistant to fire, electricity and most corrosive chemicals. These properties might make asbestos a perfect industrial insulator, except for the fact that exposure to asbestos fibers causes lethal lung diseases in humans. Foremost among these diseases is the deadly malignant cancer, mesothelioma.
In the 20th century, asbestos was used in a variety of different capacities including electrical and pipe insulation, cement, sealants, plastics, and floor and ceiling tiles. Tens of thousands of Americans were exposed to asbestos in the workplace, putting them at risk for developing a deadly, asbestos-related disease.
How Much Did Companies Know?
The question confronting the legal system was whether the companies that used asbestos knew that it was hazardous to the health of their employees. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that they did.
The first identification of asbestos as a substance hazardous to health took place in the first century, when the Roman historian and doctor Pliny the Elder wrote about “the sickness of the lungs” he observed in the slaves who worked closely with the mineral.
In the 20th century, U.S. public health researchers began keeping track of the large numbers of respiratory illnesses taking place in asbestos mining towns; these studies were published in 1917 and 1918. By the 1930s, major medical journals had begun publishing studies that posited the link between asbestos exposure and lung disease in no uncertain terms.
Ample evidence exists in the form of internal memos and documents that the asbestos industry was well aware of these scientific findings and was determined to use its clout to suppress them. In 1932, for example, when the U.S. Bureau of Mines attempted to publish a report indicating nearly one-third of all employees at Johns Manville, a major asbestos company showed signs of asbestos-related lung diseases on x-ray, Johns Manville successfully moved to halt publication.
History of Mesothelioma Trust Funds
Since 1977, Congress has considered a number of Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution (FAIR) bills that would create a federally mandated trust fund from which all injury claims related to asbestos exposure would be paid.
In the interim, asbestos redress has been handled for the most part through trust funds set up as part of reorganization by asbestos companies that have filed for bankruptcy.
This information is presented for reference purposes only. If you have been exposed to asbestos and have questions about available legal options, please consult with an experienced attorney.