November 19, 2019

Baltimore Taking Aggressive Action To Resolve Asbestos Backlog

Baltimore’s court system is taking an aggressive approach to resolve its backlog of 30,000 asbestos-related cases, The Wall Street Journal reports.

According to the article, the new system sets up proceedings for 500 cases a month, which is “pushing plaintiffs’ lawyers to get cases ready for court and forcing them to abandon weak ones.” This system is similar to those used in federal and other jurisdictions with equally large backlogs.

One plaintiffs’ lawyer in particular, though, has voiced objections. Peter Angelos, who also owns the Baltimore Orioles baseball team and “has filed the vast majority of Maryland asbestos lawsuits,” is pushing the state legislature to allow him to consolidate the cases. Defendants, however, are pushing back on this claim. They say allowing the cases to be consolidated “allows law firms to slip in weak or illegitimate cases with stronger ones and encourages even more cases to be filed.” So far, about half of the cases considered have been dismissed before even getting to trial.

Theodore Roberts, one defense attorney, told The Wall Street Journal that of the 2,800 cases his company faced in the past two years, 65 percent have been dismissed often due to a lack of evidence. Consolidation, he said in the article, “hides all the nonviable claims in the inventory.”

Judge W. Michel Pierson, who is overseeing the backlog’s cases, said the new system is working. He said it will take about five years to resolve the rest of the cases.

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