This post follows up on a prior post that described the Manville asbestos trust halting its prior practice of licensing its claims data to third parties for uses such as estimating future claim counts, seeing evidence of claiming trends, and weeding out fraudulent claims.
After the original post, I heard two sets of comments through emails, phone calls and personal conversations. First, I heard multiple comments that fall into the general category of complaints that the Manville data cutbacks are exacerbating an already difficult claims management situation arising from the absence of verifiable public data on asbestos claim payments.
Second, I heard from professionals at Navigant regarding a database of asbestos claims it is licensing to users, and its ongoing efforts to expand the scope of the database. Navigant is the name of a consulting firm that today is home for scores of professionals with massive asbestos experience. Navigant’s data and professionals have roots in extensive work for insurers and insureds on asbestos claims as the claim morphed in the late 1970s and early 1980s. I’m happy to give its database a bit of a plug here because I know from personal experience that Navigant’s professionals do lots of great work on asbestos claims. Indeed, back in the 1980s, I worked with several of their professionals (then at Peterson & Co.) on the dinosaur known as “asbestos-in-buildings” claims. (That species of asbestos claims long ago became extinct in the tort system due to lack of merit, but – incredibly – those claims still live on in the alternative universe of asbestos trusts. Why that is so is a story for another day. )
Marketing material for the Navigant database is available here. The gist is that the database includes a variety of useful data, with two subsets that are especially valuable. One subset consists of all mesothelioma lawsuits filed in the United States beginning in 2005. The data can be organized by state and in time sequence. These are powerful tools to evaluate the scope of recent mesothelioma claims, which today are the claims driving the majority of the costs for asbestos defendants and/or insurers. The database also identifies the entities named as defendants in each case, and to the extent available from the complaint, the nature of the plaintiff’s trade and alleged dates of asbestos exposure. This information also is highly useful for assessing the relative role of a particular defendant as compared to others, and for assessing insurance issues tied to exposure date allegations.
Navigant’s Brad Drew and others are responsible for the database, and tell me they are working on trying to expand the database through cooperative efforts among defendants and others. Hopefully they succeed in the far less than simple task of herding together decision-makers and information from the key players among the thousands of asbestos defendants. (Once upon a time back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the plaintiffs were at a disadvantage because the relatively limited set of defendants and insurers actually worked pretty well together to share claims data and war stories. That stopped being true as more and more of the original original defendants fell into bankruptcy and the number of defendants exponentially expanded as plaintiff’s lawyers and experts started selling the notion that even the tiniest “exposure” constitutes a “cause” of disease.)
The Navigant database also includes hundreds of thousands of old asbestos claims assembled over the many years that Navigant has been processing claims for insurers and defendants. This data also can be very valuable for estimating claims, perceiving trends and proving up facts regarding the “elephantine mass’ of asbestos claims. Old claims also may be used to find fraudulent multiple claims by one person.
It’s great that Navigant is making this data available. That said, it seems incongruous that there is no free, national database of objective data regarding asbestos litigation.